2023 USFL rule changes: Kickoffs move to 20-yard line, end zone fumbles no longer touchbacks

Teams will also be allowed to have emergency third QB
USFL football on stand before kickoff, April 16, 2022
Posted at 10:36 AM, Apr 14, 2023

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Kickoffs will move back 5 yards and a ball that is fumbled forward from the field of play into the end zone and out of bounds will no longer be ruled a touchback, the United States Football League announced Thursday ahead of the 2023 season.

The new rule changes coincide with the start of the reborn spring football league's sophomore season, which has expanded to four cities this year after playing its entire 2022 slate of games in Birmingham, Alabama.

During the debut season, the USFL unveiled several unconventional rules like the double forward pass, three-point conversions and a best-of-three-play shootout in overtime.

"In 2023, we're taking it one step further with new innovative rules that will keep fans more engaged and entertained while collectively being good for the game of football that we all love," Mike Pereira, head of officiating for the USFL, said in a statement.

New for 2023, the kickoff spot will move back from the 25-yard line to the 20-yard line as the USFL seeks to increase returns while maintaining player safety. The USFL had an 81% return rate in 2022, which the league hopes to increase to 90% this season.

There is also a new rule change when it comes to fumbles in the end zone. Instead of being ruled a touchback, the ball will be returned to the spot of the fumble and the fumbling team will retain possession.

USFL logo on pylon in end zone, April 16, 2022
The USFL logo is seen on a pylon in the end zone during the first half of a game Saturday, April 16, 2022, in Birmingham, Ala.

Another new rule change will allow each team to carry an inactive emergency third quarterback. If that player enters the game anytime in the first three quarters, the first two quarterbacks cannot return to the game. All three quarterbacks will be allowed to play in the fourth quarter.

The USFL returns Saturday with a doubleheader on WFLX Fox 29 and one game Sunday on WPTV.