After season one of the USFL, there was one major complaint about the league and it’s support. That was a lack of fans in the stands. To try and find a short term solution without going all in on moving all seven teams to the market, the USFL has announced they will consider secondary hub sites. I thought it would be interesting to look at which site in the northern division offers the best location in the US that bell juice is just one more hub site for 2023.
First let’s look at logistics
Logistically, the two furthered sites apart from one another are New Jersey and Michigan. Ideally you don’t want to place a hub where one team might travel significantly more than the rest. So that leads one to Believe that the league may lean toward Pittsburgh or Philadelphia for the secondary hub site in an attempt to limit and unnecessary travel costs.
When looking at these two cities, there are pros and cons to both of them. Let’s start with the most obvious one. Period since we’re on the subject of travel I’ll be getting there, Pittsburgh in theory holds the upper handIn this regard. Technically Pittsburgh is more or less the halfway point between Michigan and New Jersey in this exercise.
An argument that could be made to put the hub in Philadelphia could be made. Philadelphia might offer the closest thing to a Home stadium for two teams with a very close vicinity for a third in Pittsburgh. New Jersey is less than a 2 Hour Drive from Philadelphia. Which could promote fans from New Jersey to travel to home games more often than they would if the hub was in Pittsburgh. In this sense, Philadelphia may present the better option due to the USFL trying to spike attendance in 2023.
Economic Status of Each City
If we take a look at the financial status of each city trying to get a feel for who might attend games I took a look at the unemployment rate, median income in the area, and cost of living. Arguably if a location has a high unemployment rate, and high cost of living with a marginal income rate, it’s population isn’t likely to attend sporting events as often.
Unemployment rates were fairly similar with one location Sticking out above the rest. Pennsylvania sits at a 4.5% unemployment rate, Michigan close behind at 4.3%, and New Jersey in the lead with the lowest at 3.9%. However as of 2020 New Jersey’s population had a median income of just under $40,000 annually. Pennsylvania sits at $32,500, and Michigan sits at just over $30,000.
Cost of Living according to bestplaces.com
New Jersey 120.4
US average is considered 100
As you can see New Jersey may have the lowest unemployment rate, and highest income but it is a significantly more expensive place to live. With that in mind it again points us back to our two Pennsylvania cities. With a cost of living just barely above Michigan, and an Average income to match that differential, it looks as though Pennsylvania offers the most likely fans to attend sporting events. Now add on the logistical advantage that these two cities provide over the others, and it begins to become clear which cities make the most sense already.
When looking at the population growth from 2020-2021, you see more evidence pointing toward a potential Pennsylvania Hub.
Michigan experienced a decline in population of .2%. Not exactly a steep drop, but a drop nonetheless.
Pennsylvania as a whole saw a .2 decrease, but Philadelphia saw a .3% population increase. It’s in state rival Pittsburgh saw a decline of 200,000 residents.
The final northern state, New Jersey actually saw a decrease as well. It was a slight decrease but this means it’s next door neighbor Philadelphia was the only city in the Northern Division to boast year over year growth last year.
Reports Claim Franklin Field is in the Running
Thanks to USFLNewsHub writer Mike Mitchell we have quite a bit of contributing information that again points to a Pennsylvania based hub. Franklin Field, the home field of University of Penn is in consideration as a stadium for the USFL to play its games in.
The USFL certainly has major growth in mind with the home stadiums chosen if Franklin Field is the next in line. It’s capacity is currently just under 53,000.
Protective Stadium: 47,100
Tom Benson Stadium:23,000
With the site of the playoffs falling in last at just 23,000 it becomes apparent the USFL has its eyes set on stadiums that provide capacity between 40,000 and 70,000 range. It remains to be seen if providing another hub will fill all those seats in 2023.
Fan Bases and Viewership
As a whole the league averaged around 700,000 per game in the regular season as reported by Mike Mitchell of usflnewshub.com. Also in that article with some great information about which cities were more likely to view USFL games as the season progressed. As mentioned in his article The USFL boasted five of the top fifteen TV markets in the United States.
With New Jersey, Philadelphia, Houston, Tampa Bay, and Michigan I’ll making that list. The other three cities don’t offer very prolific markets, but as you’ll see that doesn’t necessarily mean but it’ll translate directly to the USFL. Again in his article he mentions the number of games that aired on NBC and USA which have a bigger audience.
- Michigan Panthers: 7 overall., 3 (NBC), 4 (USA).
- New Jersey Generals: 6 overall, 2 (NBC ), 4 (USA).
- Birmingham Stallions: 5 overall, 4 (NBC), 1 (USA).
- New Orleans Breakers: 5 overall, 3 (NBC), 2 (USA)
- Houston Gamblers: 4 overall, 2 (NBC), 2 (USA).
- Tampa Bay Bandits: 4 overall, 2 (NBC), 2 (USA).
- Philadelphia Stars: 4 overall, 2 (NBC), 2 (USA)
- Pittsburgh Maulers: 3 overall, 0 (NBC), 3 (USA)
Ratings By City
If you look at the chart Mike includes in his article only three of the cities lay claim to a USFL team. Birmingham, New Orleans, and Detroit made the list. More on Birmingham and New Orleans’ effect on this decision later. Michigan has the benefit of being named after a state but if a team is going anywhere it’ll likely be in Detroit where the viewership was stable.
However looking at some of the other markets we see a trend emerge. First of all Texas loves it’s football with both Austin and Fort Meyers appearing. Second, the northeast loves football as well. Norfolk Virginia, and Dayton, Ohio, and then the more central location of Knoxville, Tennessee also shows up. With the outliers/Texas bleed off infects Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Tulsa, Oklahoma also on the list.
Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and New Jersey are absent on this list. Calling in sick when ratings came out. Ironically these ratings actually only help solidify the case to put a team in one of these cities. There’s a high likelihood, the areas like Norfolk and Dayton hold their fair share of fans of teams in the north division. Maybe with the relative proximity of the states you get some more travel to stadiums for games.
The thing is, even if you don’t get travel from the states and cities that are watching the games most likely will still get their viewership, while also hopefully spurring interest of the cities that you are now footing their teams a lot closer to. There is the old cliché that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, could the USFL and fox look at the states of Pennsylvania, and New Jersey as their current weak links in the league?
Performance Apparently Plays No Part
The ironic part about these particular cities falling short of the top 10 list, is the fact that Philadelphia saw their team nearly claim a Championship victory, and New Jersey was one game from an undefeated season. If this doesn’t spur interest the only other hope is moving a team to their area and flooding them with marketing campaigns designed for each city. It’s time that the cookie cutter approach gets crumbled and we start building a more targeted marketing campaign, IF of course the USFL truly wants ownership groups for its teams.
Check out Mike Mitchell’s article here: