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February 01, 2023

The Arena Football League is relaunching in 2024

Will the Soul return along with it?

The USFL and the Philadelphia Stars made a comeback, the XFL is getting ready for another revival, and now the Arena Football League is back from the grave with plans for a 2024 relaunch. 

Announced Wednesday, the AFL will return next year with 16 teams and a 10-game regular season schedule for each before the league's playoffs. 

The initial press release didn't drop any team names or locations, so no clue if the Philadelphia Soul are on their way back too. That said, on the AFL's website, a Soul player is the featured image attached to the press release detailing the relaunch. 

The AFL revival is being led by an investment group called F1 Sports & Entertainment, which bought the rights to the league in January 2022, just over two years after it went bankrupt and ceased operations. 

The Soul were introduced as an expansion team in 2004 and played in the Wells Fargo Center on a schedule that used to run across the NFL's offseason. 

Jon Bon Jovi was a majority owner of the team and former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski held a minority stake up until the league ran into financial trouble and had to suspend operations for the first time in 2009. Bon Jovi left the Soul behind to form an ownership group in pursuit of the Buffalo Bills, and when the league was ready to come back in 2011, Jaworski fully took over the team. 

The Soul were actually a pretty successful franchise, winning three ArenaBowl championships (2008, 2016, and 2017) during their lifespan, and making an appearance in the last one in 2019 where they lost to Albany. 

The AFL suspended operations a couple of months later and by November 2019, had declared bankruptcy and shut down completely. 

The league, and the Soul, always managed to sustain somewhat of a core following but struggled to reach the masses and retain attention, even when it had the lone designation as more football to watch during the NFL's offseason. It just never had anywhere close to the same appeal as the NFL or even college football. 

What makes the news of an AFL relaunch even more curious is that the league won't be alone in trying to grab an audience over the spring and summer, it will have the new USFL and XFL to compete with as well, and in a situation where all three have failed in the past (and multiple times). 

In the event that the Soul do make a return, there's also the question of who's running them (would Jaworski come back?) and where they would play (would the Wells Fargo Center be open again?). 

But again, that's if they're coming back.

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