Kevin Seifert, ESPN
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The Spring League is planning a notable expansion in the coming weeks by adding two teams and two weeks to the structure the developmental football league used in 2020, CEO Brian Woods confirmed this week.
Its growth comes at an unstable moment in the industry, as the XFL and CFL remain in talks about an unspecified collaboration that could result in a merger. In the meantime, the XFL has paused its plans for a return to the field in 2022. The CFL hopes to return this summer, but its finances depend on whether fans will be able and willing to attend its games amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Spring League has operated since 2017, serving as a developmental league for players who mostly moved on to the CFL, XFL and the Alliance of American Football (AAF). It also served as a rule experimentation incubator for the XFL in 2019, and this season it will test an overtime rule change that allows the coin toss winner to choose where to spot the ball or which team will get first possession, similar to a proposal the Baltimore Ravens have made to the NFL this spring.
Woods said the league’s eight teams will play a six-week schedule beginning May 6, using hub stadiums in Indianapolis and Houston. It has recruited several coaches with experience in the NFL, XFL, AAF or a combination, including Jerry Glanville, Kevin Gilbride and Mike Riley. Fox Sports is finalizing a full schedule of televised games, Woods said.
The league’s preference will be for its coaches, players and staff to be vaccinated for COVID-19 before the season begins. If they are not, Woods said, they will be asked for proof of a negative test when arriving in one of the hub cities and will be subject to daily testing thereafter.