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NFL Versus USFL: Differences Between Rules And Regulations

FOX Sports has had a successful relaunch of the United States Football League (USFL), which became the first professional football league to finish its inaugural season in over 20 years. We are now onto Year 2, and the spring football league—a reincarnation of the original USFL while using the same franchise branding, though not officially associated with it—has been a good way to entertain football fans during the down period in the offseason.


The Birmingham Stallions won the USFL championship last season, and USFL odds have them as the favorites to repeat, with the New Jersey Generals and the Philadelphia Stars coming in behind them.


If you’ve considered watching the USFL, you might be surprised to find that the rules differ from the NFL. These are among the biggest differences between the rules and regulations of the USFL and the NFL.



  • If you’ve played organized flag football, you might be familiar with the point-after conversions in the USFL.
  • Teams can go for a 1-point, 2-point, or 3-point conversion after a touchdown.
  • 1-point: kick from the 15-yard line
  • 2-point: scrimmage play from the 2-yard line
  • 3-point: scrimmage play from the 10-yard line
  • In the NFL, you can only go for a one-point kick or two-point conversion attempt from scrimmage.


Running Clock

  •  In the NFL, the game clock stops after incomplete passes.
  • The USFL has a running clock even for incomplete passes; the clock begins to stop in the final five minutes of the second and fourth quarters.
  • The clock stops for first downs inside two minutes in the second and fourth quarters.



  • The USFL wants to increase kickoff returns given that it’s an exciting play.
  • NFL kickoffs take place from the 35-yard line.
  • Kickoffs in the USFL take place from the 25-yard line, making it more difficult to kick the ball out of the end zone.


Instant Replay

  • One coaches challenge per coach is allowed per game, compared to two (and potentially three if the first two are won) in the NFL.
  • The replay crew can overturn personal foul calls in the USFL.



  • The NFL has a 10-minute overtime period during the regular season, and games can end in a tie.
  • In the NFL regular season, both teams must have a chance to possess the ball unless one team scores a touchdown.
  • In the NFL postseason, both teams have a chance to possess the ball even if the first team scores a touchdown.
  • The USFL instead alternates conversion attempts from the two-yard line, with each team getting three opportunities­—similar to a hockey shootout.
  • In the USFL, if each team has the same number of converted conversions after the three attempts each in overtime, they continue with sudden death until a winner is declared.


The Emergency Quarterback

  •  As we saw in the NFL with the Niners opting to only have two quarterbacks active in the NFC Championship Game (it should be noted that they could have chosen to have a third active), having a third quarterback available can be critical.
  • The USFL has a designated emergency third quarterback that is officially inactive but can enter the game if needed.