It’s been 17,517 days since Birmingham played its first game in the World Football League.
And 17,369 days have passed since the city laid claim to its only professional football championship.
In just a few more days, the wait for another crown might finally come to an end.
Forty-eight years after the Magic City began its WFL odyssey – a season that ended with the Birmingham Americans edging the Florida Blazers, 22-21, in the World Bowl – another play-for-pay team hailing from Central Alabama will seek a championship.
The Birmingham Stallions (10-1) punched their ticket to the USFL Championship Game with a 31-17 victory over the New Orleans Breakers (6-5) tonight in a semifinal game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio. They’ll tangle with the Philadelphia Stars (7-4) next Sunday at the same locale, with the inaugural United States Football League title on the line.
Philadelphia upset New Jersey, 19-14, in the other semifinal, setting the stage for the city’s first opportunity to reach a gridiron summit since 1974’s World Football League triumph.
The WFL tried to compete with the National Football League by raiding it for established stars. The USFL, on the other hand, hopes to give mostly younger players a lifeline to the NFL.
Regardless of the different eras and different levels, hoisting a trophy would be quite an achievement for Skip Holtz and his charges. Birmingham rolled to an 8-0 start, had a hiccup against the Houston Gamblers after already wrapping up the USFL South Division, and now have a two-game winning streak and are just one victory away from being alone at the top.
Aside from the 1974 Americans, no Birmingham team has ever played for a league championship until now. That squad started off 10-0 before finishing 17-5 and winning the World Bowl in front of 32,376 fans at Legion Field.
The Ams were unbeaten in games played in Birmingham, finishing 13-0 at home.
The 1975 Vulcans, competing in the rebooted WFL (the 1974 organization folded and was officially reborn as New League Inc.) finished with a league-best 9-3 record. However, the circuit closed up shop after 12 weeks.
The original Stallions (1983-85) of the big budget, big league USFL, had a 2-2 postseason record. They won in the divisional round in 1984 before losing in the conference championship game, and had a quarterfinal victory followed by a semifinal defeat in 1985.
The World League of American Football Fire (1991-92) was 0-2 in the playoffs; the CFL Barracudas (1995) were 0-1; the XFL Thunderbolts (2001) finished 2-8 and failed to make the playoffs; and the Alliance of American Football Iron (2019) was 5-3 and had secured a postseason berth before the league folded after eight weeks.
The 2022 Stallions are also the first Birmingham pro football team to win a division title since the 1991 Fire topped the WLAF North American West with a 5-5 mark.
The new version of the USFL, which held its entire regular season in a Birmingham hub, breaks a dubious streak in alternative football. Until this year, a domestic outdoor pro spring league hadn’t completed a full season since the 2001 XFL. (The Spring League, which lasted from 2017 to 2021, did not pay its players).
Birmingham hosted all of the league’s regular season games at either Protective Stadium or Legion Field, and its lone home team showed this evening it could win on a neutral field. In defeating the Breakers for the third time this season, the Stallions had a pick-six courtesy of DeMarquis Gates and a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Victor Bolden to spark the victory.
The championship game is set for 6:30 p.m. on July 3 with FOX providing TV coverage.
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