International American football leagues

International American Football Leagues

American football, a sport long regarded as the United States’ beloved past time, is no longer confined within its nation’s borders. Over the past few decades, the hard-hitting, strategically complex game has captured the attention of audiences worldwide, leading to the establishment of professional and semi-professional international American football leagues.

American Grid Iron Football Around the World

Despite its deep-rooted American origins, gridiron football has experienced a remarkable surge in popularity internationally. This growth can be attributed to several factors, including the increased exposure through media and technology, cultural exchange facilitated by globalization, and the inherent appeal of the sport’s physicality and strategic depth.

The journey to establishing thriving international leagues has been riddled with obstacles. The lack of infrastructure and facilities, limited player development pathways, and cultural barriers that favor entrenched sports have all posed significant challenges.

Major International Professional Leagues

At the forefront of American football’s international expansion are a few prominent professional leagues, each carving its niche and contributing to the sport’s growing popularity worldwide.

European League of Football (ELF)

Launched in 2021, the European League of Football (ELF) has quickly established itself as a force to be reckoned with in the realm of international gridiron football. With teams spanning across Germany, Poland, Spain, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and France, the ELF has effectively filled the void left by the defunct NFL Europe. Boasting a professionalized structure and a strategic partnership with the NFL, the league has already garnered significant attention and viewership within its inaugural seasons.

The European League captures many of its players from the practice squads of the NFL like Dominic Eberle, Sandro Platzgummer, and Matt Cole.

X League (Japan)

Japan’s passion for American football dates back to the 1930s, and the X League stands as a testament to the country’s enduring love for the sport. Founded in 1971 as the Japan American Football League, later rebranded as the X League in 1996, features a unique blend of company-sponsored teams and open club teams.

A regular season game between American college teams was played in Japan. from 1977 to 1993, initially sponsored by Mitsubishi and known as the Mirage Bowl. The name was changed to “Coca-Cola Classic” in 1986 to reflect the game’s new corporate sponsor at that time. This period fostered a distinctive environment within the Japanese football landscape.


With a promotion-relegation system and adherence to NCAA rules, the X League has produced numerous talented players who have represented Japan in international competitions.

Canadian Football League (CFL)

While the Canadian Football League plays a variant of gridiron football distinct from its American counterpart, its rich history and dedicated fanbase make it a crucial component of the international football ecosystem. Established in 1958 through the merger of two regional unions, the CFL boasts a 21-week regular season, culminating in the highly anticipated Grey Cup championship game – a true Canadian cultural institution. The league’s strategic partnerships with international organizations further solidify its global reach and influence.

Semi-Professional and Minor Leagues

Beyond the major professional leagues, several semi-professional and minor leagues have emerged, showcasing the sport’s grassroots growth and providing valuable developmental opportunities for players and coaches alike.

Liga de Fútbol Americano Profesional (LFA) – Mexico

Founded in 2016, the LFA has rapidly gained traction in Mexico, a country with a long-standing affinity for American football. With an alliance with the Canadian Football League (CFL), the LFA serves as the top level of professional football in Mexico, offering a platform for talented players from the country’s college football conferences and international recruits.

Egyptian Federation of American Football (EFAF)

Egypt’s burgeoning football scene is spearheaded by the Egyptian Federation of American Football (EFAF), a governing body responsible for the sport’s regulatory, competitive, and developmental aspects within the nation. With eight affiliated teams and over 800 registered individuals, the EFAF is actively working to introduce the culture, ethics, and values of American football to a new audience through comprehensive training programs and competitions.

Chinese National Football League (CNFL)

China, a vast and potentially lucrative market, has witnessed the steady growth of American football through the Chinese National Football League (CNFL), formerly known as the American Football League of China (AFLC). Founded in 2013, the CNFL has expanded from a small recreational league to a nationwide organization, with 92% of its players being Chinese nationals as of the 2016 season. The league’s expansion and increasing viewership reflect China’s growing appetite for the sport.

  • Central and South America
    • Brazil – CBFA Brasil Futebol Americano
    • Colombia –  FECOFA Federación Colombiana de Football Americano
    • Uruguay – LUFA Liga Uruguaya de Football Americano
  • Europe
    • Austria – AFL Austrian Football League
    • Belgium – BFL Belgian Football League
    • Croatia – HFL Hrvatska Football Liga
    • Czech Republic – CLAF Česká Liga Amerického Fotbalu
    • Denmark – NL National Ligaen
    • Finland – VL Vaahteraliiga
    • France – LEFA Ligue Élite de Football Américain
    • Germany – GFL German Football League
    • Hungary – HFL Hungarian Football League
    • Ireland – IAFL Irish American Football league
    • Italy – FIDAF Prima Division FIDAF
    • Netherlands – AFBN
    • Poland – PFL Polish Football League
    • Portugal – LPFA Liga Portuguesa de Futebol americano
    • Romania – CNFA Campionatul Național de Fotbal American
    • Russia – UAFR Russian American Football Championship
    • Slovakia – SLAF Slovenská futbalová liga
    • Slovenia – SNFL Slovenian Football League
    • Serbia – NLS Nacionalna Liga Srbije
    • Spain – LNFA Liga Nacional de Futbol Americano
    • Sweden – Superserien
    • Switzerland – NLA Nationalliga A
    • Switzerland – NSFL Non Professional Swiss Romance American Football League
    • Turkey –  TKFL Türkiye Korumalı Futbol Ligi
    • Ukraine – ULAF Super League
    • United Kingdom – BAFANL BAFA National Leagues
    • Central Europe – CEFL Central European League
    • Eastern Europe – EESL Eastern Europe Super League
  • Asia
    • Israel – IFL Israel Football League
    • South Korea – Korea American Football Association
    • Phillippines – ATFFP Phillippine- American Football League
    • India – EFLI Elit Football League of India
    • Jordan – JLAF Jordanian American Football League
  • Oceania
    • Australia – Gridiron Australia
    • Australia – Australian Gridiron League
    • Australia – Ladies Gridiron League
    • New Zealand – New Zealand American Football Association

The Future of International American Football

As American football continues to expand, the potential for further growth and development becomes increasingly evident. Ensuring a sustainable and prosperous future for international leagues will require addressing several challenges.

One of the primary hurdles lies in the lack of established infrastructure and facilities tailored to the sport’s needs. Investing in the construction of dedicated venues and training facilities will be crucial for attracting top talent and providing players with optimal conditions for growth and development.

Additionally, the emphasis on player development and grassroots initiatives cannot be overstated. Nurturing local talent, fostering youth programs, and cultivating a strong coaching pipeline will be essential for the long-term success and competitiveness of international leagues. Collaboration with established organizations, such as the NFL and NCAA, could prove invaluable in this regard, leveraging their expertise and resources to enhance player development pathways.

Furthermore, the role of international governing bodies and organizations cannot be overlooked. Entities like the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) and the respective national federations must work in tandem to establish unified rules, standards, and best practices, ensuring a cohesive and well-regulated ecosystem for the sport’s global expansion.

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, American football’s global reach is poised to soar to unprecedented heights. The emergence of professional and semi-professional leagues across multiple continents is a testament to the sport’s universal appeal and the unwavering dedication of its global community.