ST. LOUIS—In a little more than a month, training camp will open in the Arlington, Texas area for the 2024 St. Louis Battlehawks, now in the United Football League following the XFL’s merger with the USFL. The combination of two spring leagues into one was announced in the fall, with details revealed over the New Year’s holiday.

What You Need To Know

  • The UFL season kicks off March 30. The St. Louis Battlehawks will again play home games at The Dome at America's Center, although a schedule has not yet been released

  • League teams will train in the Dallas-Arlington, Texas area and play games in league cities, which in 2024 includes St. Louis, Arlington, Houston, San Antionio, Detroit, Memphis, Birmingham and Washington, D.C. 

  • Head Coach Anthony Becht said the team should know before training camp starts Feb. 23 if QB A.J. McCarron, who starred for the team last year will return. McCarron was signed by the Cincinnati Bengals late in the NFL season

  • The UFL will not use the XFL's version of kickoffs, which waited for the receiving team to catch the ball before teams could engage

With a rabid fanbase in St. Louis that embraced the XFL’s reincarnation in 2020 and then its return in 2023 with record attendance for spring football, there appeared to have been little doubt that the new league would field a team here.

Head Coach Anthony Becht returns for his second season in charge. He hopes to have some clarity over the next few weeks when it comes to finding out if QB A.J. McCarron will join him.

McCarron came to the XFL last season with a high-level NCAA experience and years of NFL roster time not usually seen in spring leagues. Embracing a chance to have his young children see him play as opposed to being in a backup role, McCarron led the league in passer rating and touchdowns, while finishing second in passing yards despite missing a game due to injury.

Becht told Spectrum News Tuesday he hoped a decision on McCarron’s status would come in the next two weeks, ahead of when players report to training camp Feb. 23. McCarron signed with Cincinnati late in the NFL season and his contract was through the regular season, which just ended. 

"The original goal for AJ was talk him into this opportunity, let him know how this could give him a nice platform and potentially get him where he wants to be, and he just had to come out, bet on himself and go do it. Well, we checked all those boxes for him, he was able to have a great year, we had a really good team and he achieved all his goals so I think for me, everyone on this roster’s trying to be that, trying to be that guy,” Becht said

Becht says between McCarron, Nick Tiano, who saw action in 2023 and Manny Wilkins, he has three starting-level quarterbacks and that the 2024 squad overall will be the most competitive he’s had.

Through a series of dispersal drafts, St. Louis this month added several players from a former XFL rival Seattle, which will not field a UFL team. Former Seattle Sea Dragon receivers Jahcour Pearson and Blake Jackson join St. Louis, along with former defensive backs Mykael Wright, Qwynnterrio Cole, and Chris Payton-Jones.

The club also added the 2023 XFL defensive player of the year in former Las Vegas Viper linebacker Pita Taumoepenu.

“We got every player that we studied and looked at and thought that would fit us, Becht said.

“We feel great about it. We’ve just improved in so many areas that I’m really excited to see what it looks like come the end of February.”

Becht said there’s still room for potential additions on the defensive line, at running back and wide receiver as the club waits to see if certain players decide to pass up reserve or futures contracts in the NFL, to get playing time and exposure in the UFL.

The new league will not take one of the XFL’s innovations with it. Kickoffs are going to look generally like they do in college and the NFL. Teams will kick off from their 20 yard-line and can head downfield, as opposed to the XFL, which required kickoff teams to wait until the receiving team caught the ball before engaging.

Also, Becht has been told that the playoff format will include the regular season conference winners, and the two best teams, regardless of conference. 

In 2023, the Battlehawks missed out on a playoff spot after a fifth tiebreaker.

“It may work out that first and second place teams make it but I think last year where there was so much unknown, maybe overlooking that factor obviously it hurt us because having the second best record but not getting in…it was a tough pill to swallow so from what I’ve been told…this year moving forward, divisional winners best next two teams and I think that’s the right way to go.”

The UFL season kicks off March 30. Schedules have not been announced.