American football in the United States

American football is the most popular sport in the United States.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] The National Football League has the highest average attendance of any sports league in the world. In the United States the game is most often referred to as simply "football".

American football in the United States
Football play from scrimmage
The U.S. Navy Midshipmen (at left, in blue) line up on offense against the Army's Black Knights
CountryUnited States
Governing bodyUSA Football
National team(s)United States
First played1869, New Brunswick, New Jersey
National competitions
Club competitions
International competitions

Organization in the United States

There is no single national governing body for American football in the United States or a continental governing body for North America. There is an international governing body, the International Federation of American Football, or IFAF. Befitting its status as a popular sport, football is played in leagues of different size, age and quality, in all regions of the country. Organized football is played almost exclusively by men and boys, although a few amateur and semi-professional women's leagues have begun play in recent years. A team / academy may be referred to as a 'football program'[8] – not to be confused with football program.


The governing body for American football in the United States is USA Football. The 32-team National Football League (NFL) is currently the only major or borderline-major professional American football league in the United States. There have been numerous attempts over the past several decades to create a second major or high-level professional league, most of which failed within a few years or, in the cases of the All-America Football Conference and 1960s American Football League, merged with the NFL.

The NFL has not operated any developmental minor leagues since the folding of the NFL Europe League in 2007. From the time of NFL Europe's exit from the U.S. market in 1992 until the founding of the independent Stars Football League in 2011, there were no minor American football leagues (independent or affiliated) anywhere in the country. Since then, there has been the SFL (which ran through 2013), Fall Experimental Football League (which played from 2014 to 2015 before it was reformatted as the non-paying The Spring League for 2017), and the Alliance of American Football, which launched in February 2019. The AAF is positioning itself as an upper-level minor league serving to transition between the college game and the NFL.

The XFL, a revamp of a league of the same name that played one season in 2001, is set to return in February 2020. In contrast to the AAF, it does not position itself as a minor league, but an independent alternative league.

There are several professional and semi-professional indoor football leagues, played at basketball-sized arenas. The oldest one is the Arena Football League, which launched in 1987; once a national league, in the mid-2010s the league began to contract to the point where its teams are centered in the northeast. Most other indoor leagues are also regional in nature. Indoor football leagues play by significantly different rules that encourage higher scoring and accommodate a smaller field of play.

Some players that do not make the NFL play in indoor leagues or go to Canada and play in the Canadian Football League, which operates professionally on a somewhat older rule system with a number of differences from the American game but still recognizable as "football" to the casual American football observer. The CFL allocates half of its teams' rosters for players born and raised in Canada but allows the rest of the players to be foreign born (in practice, these spots are almost always filled by Americans); the CFL also has television presence in the United States and as recently as 1995 played games in the U.S.

University and collegiate

College football is also popular throughout North America.[9] Most of college football in the United States is governed by the NCAA. Most colleges and universities have football teams, often with dedicated football stadiums. These teams mostly play other similarly sized schools, through the NCAA's divisional system, which divides collegiate sports teams into four divisions (I-FBS, I-FCS, II and III). The largest, most popular collegiate teams routinely fill stadiums larger than 75,000.[10] Eight college football stadiums—the University of Michigan's Michigan Stadium, Penn State's Beaver Stadium, Ohio State's Ohio Stadium, Texas A&M's Kyle Field, the University of Tennessee's Neyland Stadium, LSU's Tiger Stadium, Alabama's Bryant–Denny Stadium, and Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium at the University of Texas at Austin—seat more than 100,000 fans and usually sell out. The weekly autumn ritual of college football includes marching bands, cheerleaders, homecoming, parties, the tailgate party; it forms an important part of the culture in much of small-town America.[11][12] Football is a major source of revenue to the athletic programs of schools, public and private, in the United States.[13] The top college football players enter the NFL Draft after their college careers are over, in hopes of signing with an NFL team.

"FBS" and "FCS" are abbreviations for the Football Bowl Subdivision and Football Championship Subdivision, two sections of Division I that exist only in football. These two subdivisions were formerly known as Divisions I-A and I-AA respectively. The Championship Subdivision, consisting mostly of smaller schools than the FBS but larger than D-II, has a multiple-round playoff system just like Divisions II and III, while the Bowl Subdivision has only a limited, and unofficial, four-team playoff and has historically only featured division championships and bowl games. FBS and FCS teams can, and often do, play against each other. Unofficially, the Bowl Subdivision is divided into two further subdivisions, "major conferences" (also known as "Power Five conferences") and "mid-majors" (known in modern parlance as the "Group of Five"). In practice, only major conference teams are eligible to compete for the national championship and receive significant favor in the opinion polling over mid-majors, and it was not until the addition of the BCS National Championship Game that mid-majors had a realistic chance at appearing in one of the major bowls. Although the FCS has a playoff, three conferences do not participate (the Ivy League does not allow its teams to play in the postseason, and the historically black SWAC and MEAC instead play each other in a bowl of their own). Division III teams do not offer scholarships to their players; two Division I FCS leagues also do not offer scholarships—the Ivy League, which prohibits athletic scholarships in any sport, and the Pioneer Football League, which only competes in football and whose members all offer scholarships in non-football sports.

With the exception of the annual Army–Navy Game, only Power Five conference teams air on broadcast television, although mid-majors, FCS teams, D-II and D-III games can see more limited coverage on cable television.

Though the NCAA is the most publicized college athletic organization, the NAIA (which houses mostly smaller private colleges in the midwest) and NJCAA (an association for community colleges) also sanction football games; there also exists a club football circuit for student-run teams and colleges that choose not to compete at the varsity level. In addition to this, 10 colleges field teams in the Collegiate Sprint Football League, a league in which all players must weigh no more than 178 pounds (81 kg) in order to be eligible to play; four of those teams are long-established sprint teams that co-exist alongside their NCAA counterparts (two from the Ivy League and two military academies), while six teams that have been added since the CSFL began an ongoing expansion in 2008 either never had a varsity squad (one recent addition, 2015 expansion team Chestnut Hill College, was an all-women's school that did not even admit men until 2003) or downgraded from an NCAA team to a sprint team.

High school

Most American high schools field football teams. High school football is popular; top schools regularly fill stadiums holding over 10,000 fans, and can afford artificial playing surfaces.[14][15]

High school teams generally play only against other teams from their state (notable exceptions include matchups between nearby schools located on opposite sides of a state line and occasional matchups between two nationally ranked teams for television purposes). Still, some private Christian high schools play for national championships through organizations like the Federated Christian Athletic Association.

The National Federation of State High School Associations is the sanctioning body for most public high school football in the United States.

Adult Amateur Football / Semi-Pro Football

Adult amateur football, also known as semi-pro football, is a level of American football. It's commonly known as "working man's" football, meaning the players have regular jobs and play football on the weekends. Though the players don't get paid, the leagues and the games are run in a somewhat professional manner. For most leagues, it's against the rules to pay its players to play. The rules of the game are usually a hybrid of NFL and NCAA rules.

There are several different leagues playing in the United States:

The North American Football League (NAFL) is an adult amateur American football league. Its teams are located mainly in the Eastern, Midwestern and Southern United States. The teams mostly play regionally in the regular season to keep travel short. In the playoffs, winners of regional play will meet each other for the league championship.

The New England Football League (NEFL) has over 30 teams, with at least one in each of the six New England states. The league has three skill levels (A being more for recreational play; AAA being the most competitive; AA is somewhat in between).

The Eastern Football League, based in New England, but at times teams from New York state have competed, is one of the country's oldest semi-pro leagues. It started play in 1961.

The Mid Continental Football League began play in 1991 and by the 1990s had expanded through much of the midwest and mid-Atlantic United States before the league split apart and contracted into a four-state area in the midwest. Upstate New York also houses the oldest surviving professional football club in the United States, the Watertown Red & Black, founded in 1896.

The Pacific Northwest Football League (PNFL) started in 2016 and currently has 6 teams, 4 in Portland, Oregon and 2 in Vancouver, Washington.

Several leagues supporting women's semi-professional football play have existed. The two current major leagues are the Independent Women's Football League (IWFL) and the Women's Football Alliance (WFA). The WFA plans to begin play in 2009 stocked with teams from two recently dissolved leagues, the National Women's Football Association and Women's Professional Football League (NWFA and WPFL respectively).

US National American football team

USA Football assembles a national football team for competition in the IFAF World Championship every four years. Because of concerns over competitive balance, USA Football did not field teams for the first two events in 1999 and 2003. The 2007 team consisted solely of amateur players who had graduated from college that spring, from a diverse mix of smaller and larger colleges and universities. The 2011 squad's criteria were looser, allowing some professional players to play (mostly unemployed, lower-end and minor league players; no NFL or NCAA stars participated). Both the 2007 and 2011 incarnations of the team won their year's respective world championship.

The IFAF also fields an U-19 team composed of high school football players that has participated in the 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2016 junior world championships. The national U-19 team won the 2009 and 2014 contests but lost the 2012 contest to Canada.


  1. ^ "Harris Poll: NFL still most popular; MLB 2nd". Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  2. ^ McGinty, Jo Craven (10 April 2015). "Popularity Contest: Baseball vs. Football". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  3. ^ Rose, Bryan. "NFL ranked as most popular American sport for 30th consecutive year". Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  4. ^ Burke, Monte. "Why Is Football So Popular?". Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  5. ^ Meyer, Robinson. "Here Is Every U.S. County's Favorite Football Team (According to Facebook)". Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  6. ^ "Pro Football is Still America's Favorite Sportl". Archived from the original on 2016-01-29. Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  7. ^ "The NFL is the most popular sport in America for the 30th year running". 26 January 2014. Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  8. ^ Division III football programs "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 June 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-08.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  9. ^ Mitrosilis, Teddy. "America loves college football, just not as much as NFL or MLB". Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  10. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-05-28. Retrieved 2008-06-20.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "The Places in America Where College Football Means the Most". The New York Times. 8 November 2014.
  12. ^ "N.C.A.A. Fan Map: How the Country Roots for College Football". The New York Times. 3 October 2014. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  13. ^ Green, Adrienne. ""College" Football Has Almost Nothing to Do With College at All". Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  14. ^ "Football Is Top Sport in U.S.: 1,088,158 High School Players". 2 February 2014. Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  15. ^ Cook, Bob. "Youth Football, Despite Reported Declines, Is About As Popular As Ever". Retrieved 2016-10-21.

External links

American Football Conference

The American Football Conference (AFC) is one of the two conferences of the National Football League (NFL), the highest professional level of American football in the United States. This conference and its counterpart the National Football Conference (NFC), currently contain 16 teams organized into 4 divisions. Both conferences were created as part of the 1970 merger with the rival American Football League (AFL), with all ten of the former AFL teams and three NFL teams forming the AFC, and the remaining thirteen NFL clubs forming the NFC. A series of league expansions and division realignments have occurred since the merger, thus making the current total of 16 clubs in each conference. The current AFC champions are the New England Patriots, who defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2018 AFC Championship Game for their 11th conference championship.

American Youth Football

American Youth Football (AYF), established in 1996, is an international organization that promotes the development of youth through their association with adult leaders in American football. Rules and regulations ensure players are in a safe environment with a competitive balance between teams. The National Football League (NFL) has made AYF a national youth football partner. The President of American Youth Football is Joe Galat.

AYF allows local members to govern themselves while remaining non-intrusive. AYF has reached all 50 United States and six countries with more than 500,000 participants. AYF admits participants regardless of financial capabilities. AYF programs range from financial grants to leagues which need help, shoes sponsored by Nike, field development in conjunction with FieldTurf, and Rising Stars football camps, which send inner-city kids.

Former NFL players involved with American Youth Football include Randy Moss, Tedy Bruschi, Adam Archuleta, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, and Braylon Edwards, in addition to NFL coach Pete Carroll and TV personality and former NFL player Cris Collinsworth.

American football (disambiguation)

American football, a sport popularly called football in the United States, is a type of gridiron football.

American football may also refer to:

In sports:

Football in America (disambiguation)

American football (ball)

American football rules

American football in the United States

Soccer in the United States, U.S. involvement in the sport known as "football" in much of the world

United States Soccer Federation, the official governing body of U.S. soccerIn media:

American Football (band), an American indie rock band

American Football (1999 album), the first eponymous release by the band

American Football (2016 album), the second eponymous release by the band

American Football (2019 album), the third eponymous release by the band

Touch Down Fever: American Football, a 1987 arcade game

"American Football", a 1991 poem written by 2005 Nobel Laureate in Literature Harold Pinter

American Youth Football, established in 1996, as an international youth football organization

College football

College football is American football played by teams of student athletes fielded by American universities, colleges, and military academies, or Canadian football played by teams of student athletes fielded by Canadian universities. It was through college football play that American football rules first gained popularity in the United States.

Unlike most other sports in North America, no minor league farm organizations exist in American or Canadian football. Therefore, college football is generally considered to be the second tier of American football in the United States and Canadian football in Canada; one step ahead of high school competition, and one step below professional competition. However, in some areas of the country, college football is more popular than professional football, and for much of the early 20th century, college football was seen as more prestigious than professional football.

It is in college football where a player's performance directly impacts his chances of playing professional football. The best collegiate players will typically declare for the professional draft after three to four years of collegiate competition, with the NFL holding its annual draft every spring in which 256 players are selected annually. Those not selected can still attempt to land an NFL roster spot as an undrafted free agent.

Comparison of American football and rugby union

A comparison of American football and rugby union is possible because of the games' shared origins, despite their dissimilarities.

Football in the United States

Football in the United States may refer to:

American football

American football in the United States

Australian rules football in the United States

Gaelic football in the United States

Soccer in the United States

Rugby league in the United States

Rugby union in the United States

Frank Rutherford

Frank Garfield Rutherford, Jr. MBE (born November 23, 1964) is a retired triple jumper from the Bahamas. He competed in three Olympic Games, and won a bronze medal in 1992, becoming the first Bahamian Track and Field Olympic medalist. He now runs a program which prepares young Bahamian students to play college basketball and American football in the United States. He was a four-time participant at the World Championships in Athletics.

He attended the University of Houston, where he received Bachelor of Science degrees in Economics and Computer Science. He became the first Bahamian to win more than three NCAA triple jump championships.

Rutherford won the Bahamas its first World Championship medal with a bronze in the 1987 IAAF World Indoor Championships. He was the US Indoor Track and Field champion in the triple jump in 1991 and still currently holds the triple jump record for the University of Houston. He followed that with winning a silver medal at the 1992 World Cup in Havana, Cuba. His personal best was 17.41 metres, a Bahamian record that has later been beaten by Leevan Sands. Rutherford is considered the Olympic pioneer in the Bahamas because he was the first to win medals at the Olympic and World Championship levels. He is considered the Father of Track and Field in the Bahamas.

He started the Frank Rutherford Foundation, a Houston, Texas-based programme to assist young Bahamian sportspeople in gaining academic qualifications through college.much like Rutherford. The Foundation's goal is to help the students attain a college scholarship. Two former students of the program are Devard and Devaughn Darling, cousins of Rutherford who both received football scholarships from Florida State University. Others include Jeremy Barr, a power forward who attends the University of Nebraska on a basketball scholarship, and Ian Symmonette, a left tackle who attends the University of Miami on football scholarship. More than 60 Bahamian young people have been helped by Rutherford and his foundation and all of them have graduated from college.

His wife, Milessa Rutherford, runs the family businesses and, along with his mother, administrates the Frank Rutherford Foundation. In May 2003, Rutherford was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for excellence in athletics. He is the cousin of fellow Bahamian track athlete Dennis Darling (husband to Tonique Williams-Darling).

Freedom Football League

The Freedom Football League (FFL) is a planned professional spring-summer American football league.

High school football

High school football is gridiron football played by high school teams in the United States and Canada. It ranks among the most popular interscholastic sports in both countries. It is also popular amongst American High school teams in Europe.

High school football began in the late 19th century, concurrent with the start of many college football programs. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many college and high school teams played against one another. Today, the oldest high school football rivalry dates back to 1875 in Connecticut, between the Norwich Free Academy Wildcats and the New London High School Whalers.High school football traditions such as pep rallies, marching bands, mascots, and homecomings are mirrored from college football. No true minor league farm organizations exist in American football. Therefore, high school football is generally considered to be the third tier of American football in the United States, behind professional and college competition. It is the first level of play in which a player will accumulate statistics, which will determine his chances of competing at the college level, and ultimately the professional level if he is talented enough.

In the 2000s and beyond, there has been growing concern about safety and long-term brain health, both regarding the occasional concussion as well as the steady diet of lesser hits to the head.

Independent Women's Football League

The Independent Women's Football League (IWFL) is a full-contact Women's American football league that was founded in 2000 and began play in 2001. It is one of three 11-on-11 U.S. football leagues for women, along with the Women's Football Alliance and the United States Women's Football League, and the oldest of the three. Laurie Frederick, Deborah DelToro, and K Disney are the league's founders.

The players are not paid to play; on the contrary, players must contribute funds to cover part of their expenses.

National Football Conference

The National Football Conference (NFC) is one of the two conferences of the National Football League (NFL), the highest professional level of American football in the United States. This conference and its counterpart the American Football Conference (AFC), currently contain 16 teams organized into 4 divisions. Both conferences were created as part of the 1970 merger with the rival American Football League (AFL), with all ten of the former AFL teams and three NFL teams forming the AFC while the remaining thirteen NFL clubs formed the NFC. A series of league expansions and division realignments have occurred since the merger, thus making the current total of 16 clubs in each conference. The current NFC champions are the Los Angeles Rams, who defeated the New Orleans Saints in the 2018 NFC Championship Game for their fourth conference championship.

Pop Warner Little Scholars

Pop Warner Little Scholars, commonly known simply as Pop Warner, is a nonprofit organization that provides activities such as American football, for over 425,000 youths aged 5 to 16 years old, in several nations. It is the largest youth football organization in the United States. In the 2010s, concern grew about the dangers of brain injury, including that from a steady diet of sub-concussive hits. There have been proposals to replace tackle football with flag football below certain ages.Its headquarters are in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. Pop Warner Little Scholars is named after football coach Pop Warner, who heavily contributed to the organization in its early years.

Professional Football Researchers Association

The Professional Football Researchers Association (PFRA) is an organization of researchers whose mission is to preserve and, in some cases, reconstruct professional football history. It was founded on June 22, 1979 in Canton, Ohio by writer/historian Bob Carroll and six other football researchers and is currently headed by an executive committee led by its president, Ken Crippen, and executive director Mark L. Ford. Membership in the organization includes some of professional football's foremost historians and authors. The organization is based in Guilford, New York.

The PFRA publishes books and a bimonthly magazine, The Coffin Corner, devoted to topics in professional football history. The organization also gives out awards each year for outstanding achievement in the field of football research.

Toni Fritsch

Anton K. "Toni" Fritsch (10 July 1945 – 14 September 2005) was an Austrian footballer who later started a successful career in American football in the United States. He is distinguished as being the first Austrian to play in the National Football League. He's the only player in history to win professional titles in both association football and American football: he won the Austrian League in 1964, 1967 and 1968, and the Super Bowl in 1972.

USA Football

USA Football is the national governing body for amateur American football in the United States. It is an independent non-profit based in Indianapolis, Indiana. USA Football hosts more than 100 training events annually and offers education programs for coaches and game officials, as well as skill development for young players and resources for youth league administrators. The organization awards more than $1,000,000 in equipment grants to youth leagues and high schools each year based on merit and need along with additional resources. USA Football also offers up to $500,000 in subsidies for volunteer youth coach background checks.

USA Football was endowed by the National Football League and the National Football League Players Association in 2002.

In May 2017, the International Federation of American Football stripped its recognition of USA Football, citing disputes over anti-doping enforcement. The IFAF instead recognized the United States Federation of American Football as the USA's governing body, and the USFAF organized a team to participate in the 2017 World Games, in which it won a bronze medal.

A rival body also calling itself the International Federation of American Football continued to recognize USA Football and organized the 2017 Women's World Championships, which the USA won.In March 2018, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) determined that the rival IFAF organization was the proper governing entity and voided all decisions of the other IFAF entity, including their decision to strip USA Football of its recognition. USA Football is currently the internationally recognized governing body for American football in the United States.

United States national American football team

The United States National American football team represents the United States in international men's American football competitions. It is currently controlled by USA Football and is recognized by the International Federation of American Football (IFAF).

During the 2015 split between IFAF Paris and IFAF New York, in which IFAF Paris expelled USA Football in 2017. USA Football was replaced by the United States Federation of American Football in Paris, while New York retained USA Football as their active member.

The United States is the most successful team at the IFAF World Championship, winning on all three of their entries in the tournament, most recently when hosting the event in 2015. The U.S. team suffered its first defeat at the 2017 World Games, being represented by college players selected by USFAF.

United States women's national American football team

The United States Women's National American Football Team is the official American football senior national team of the United States.

XFL (2020)

The XFL is a planned professional American football league owned by Vince McMahon's Alpha Entertainment, and is headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut. It is a successor to the previous XFL, which was controlled by the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE) and NBC, and ran for a single season in 2001. The league will follow a similar structure as the original XFL did in 2001, with eight teams, centrally owned and operated by the league and spread across the United States in markets currently or recently represented by a National Football League (NFL) franchise, competing in a ten-game season and a two-week postseason in the winter and spring months.

In announcing the reformed XFL, McMahon stated that while it would share its name and trademark with the previous incarnation, it will not rely on professional wrestling-inspired features and entertainment elements as its predecessor did, instead aiming to create a league with fewer off-field controversies and faster, simpler play compared to the NFL.

American football in the United States
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