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XFL relaunch to include a Washington franchise at Audi Field

Audi Field will host a new professional football team. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

The XFL plans to include a franchise in Washington when it relaunches in 2020, according to a person familiar with the process. The new professional football team will play its home games at Audi Field, sharing the stadium with D.C. United for at least part of the year.

An XFL spokesman declined to comment Friday on its plans. The league has scheduled a news conference for Wednesday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., where it’s expected to announce the eight cities that will field teams in its inaugural season.

The revived league, owned by pro wrestling magnate Vince McMahon, plans to begin play in February 2020 with a 10-week regular season slate. The schedule for Washington’s as-yet-unnamed team probably will overlap for at least a few weeks with D.C. United’s, meaning stadium officials will have to prep the field for both soccer and football.

The news of Washington’s franchise was first reported Friday by the Athletic.

While the District contributed $150 million for infrastructure and land acquisition, United owns and operates Audi Field in Southwest Washington. The stadium carried a price tag of $500 million and opened in July, midway through the MLS season. A United spokesman declined to comment Friday.

The Washington XFL team is not expected to name a coach or announce a team nickname, logo or colors until early next year. It is not yet clear where the new franchise will be headquartered or where it will practice. League officials have said that XFL teams will feature 40-man rosters, and that players will be signed to year-round contracts, with salaries averaging around $75,000.

The XFL franchise will join a D.C. market already flooded with pro sports teams and will become the third professional football outfit, along with the NFL’s Redskins and the Arena League’s Valor. Media reports have identified St. Louis as another market expected to field an XFL team in 2020.

This marks the second incarnation of the XFL. The previous version, also backed by McMahon, flamed out in spectacular fashion after just one season in 2001. The new league will share many structural attributes with the original version — the league will own and operate all eight teams, for example — but is aiming for a different look and feel.

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While the old league was backed by NBC and relied on flashy marketing and gimmicks, the new XFL aims to differentiate itself with a smarter, quicker brand of football. It hopes to woo fans frustrated by the NFL’s pace of play and off-field controversies. League officials have been reimagining some of the sport’s finer points in hopes of delivering a more exciting product. For example, the league probably will employ a shorter play clock to speed the pace of play.

McMahon announced in January that he was relaunching the XFL, and he reportedly is willing to invest as much as $500 million to see that it’s more successful on the second go-round. While many smaller pro football leagues have come and gone — few with the notoriety of the original XFL — McMahon is taking an extra year this time to plan and prepare before sending players onto the field. In June, he hired Oliver Luck to serve as his league’s commissioner and CEO; Luck had previously been an executive with the NCAA, the athletic director at West Virginia and the president of NFL Europe.

The XFL is among at least three start-up football leagues that plan to begin play in the next few years. McMahon first launched the XFL in 2001 with the help of Dick Ebersol, the longtime NBC executive. Dick’s son, Charlie Ebersol, aims to debut the Alliance of American Football in February with eight teams spread from San Diego to Orlando, but none along the Atlantic Coast or based in the Northeast.

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