By Steve Keating
(Reuters) – Nine-point touchdowns and shootout-style overtime will be part of the XFL as the rebooted league looks to bring added pace and excitement to the gridiron.
The XFL, which failed in an earlier attempt to crack National Football League domination and folded after one season in 2001, unveiled an intriguing tweak of the rule book on Tuesday as it prepares for a February relaunch.
“We’re super excited about giving our fans a new fan-first league that is true to the game, a league that is ultra accessible and a league we believe is built for the 21st century,” said XFL commissioner and CEO Oliver Luck during a conference call.
“We responded by designing a fast up-tempo game that we believe fans will love.”
World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) impresario Vince McMahon, founder and chairman of both XFL ventures, is once again betting on the insatiable appetite of Americans for gridiron.
A 10-game regular season will be followed by playoffs and a championship game during the winter and spring months when the NFL has concluded.
The eight-team league will begin on Feb. 8, a week after the Super Bowl, with the Seattle Dragons at the DC Defenders and Los Angeles Wildcats visiting the Houston Roughnecks.
The championship game is scheduled for April 26.
The most talked about change is likely to be what occurs after a touchdown is scored.
There will be no option to kick a convert, instead teams will be given the choice of running a play for one point from the two-yard line, two points from the five-yard line or three from the 10-yard line, leaving the possibility of a nine-point touchdown.
One of the biggest challenges the NFL has faced has been finding an overtime format that works for both fans and broadcast partners.
Current NFL rules allow for both teams to get the ball in overtime unless the team that gets the ball first scores a touchdown on the opening drive, as the Minnesota Vikings did on Sunday in beating the New Orleans Saints.
The XFL will instead use a National Hockey League shootout format that will see each team get five single-play possessions from the five-yard line. The two teams will alternate possessions until one has an insurmountable lead.
“We spent a lot of time making sure that all those ideas we had that looked great up on the white board that they really made sense on the field,” said Luck. “There were some ideas that came to the table that we thought were a bridge too far.
“We had to be selective in the rule changes, we had to be smart.”
(Editing by Toby Davis)