With the demise of the Arena Football League (AFL) in the off-season, indoor football leagues are still surviving but some just barely above semi-pro football.
Here’s a look at the indoor leagues that I have found which are scheduled to play this season:
Indoor Football League (IFL) is starting their 11th season with 13 teams. The IFL is currently the oldest arena/indoor football league. The Sioux Falls Storm won last year’s championship which was their seventh title.
Current teams are: Arizona Rattlers, Bismarck Bucks, Cedar Rapids River Kings, Duke City Gladiators, Frisco Fighters, Green Bay Blizzard, Iowa Barnstormers, Oakland Panthers, Quad City Steamwheelers, San Diego Strike Force, Sioux Falls Storm, Spokane Shock and Tucson Sugar Skulls.
On August 20, 2019, the Duke City Gladiators joined the IFL after winning back-to-back CIF championships. On September 10, the Oakland Panthers, co-owned by former NFL running back Marshawn Lynch, joined the IFL for the 2020 season. On November 1, the league added the Spokane Shock after it was resurrected by former NFL player Sam Adams, with the Spokane team reacquiring the Shock brand following the Empire’s folding in 2017. The Bosselman family were looking to sell the Nebraska Danger, but no owner was found before the deadline for participating in the 2020 season. On November 24, 2019, the IFL added a thirteenth team in Frisco, Texas, owned by the Germain family called the Frisco Fighters. The Germain family also purchased the sponsorship rights for the IFL, the management rights of the league’s communications and marketing department, as well as a second expansion for the 2021 season in Columbus, Ohio.
The season begins March 7th. For more information on this league, go to goifl.com.
The Champions Indoor Football (CIF) league currently has seven teams and will be kicking off their fifth season. The Duke City Gladiators won their second league championship last season.
Current teams are: Omaha Beef, Salina Liberty, Sioux City Bandits, Wichita Force, Amarillo Venom, Oklahoma Flying Aces and West Texas Warbirds.
During the offseason, the CIF lost the Bismarck Bucks and Quad City Steamwheelers to the IFL. When the 2019 schedule was released, both the West Michigan Ironmen and the Kansas City Phantoms had been removed as members. On May 9, the Texas Revolution folded during the season. At the end of the season, the Duke City Gladiators won their second consecutive championship and then withdrew from the league, eventually joining the IFL. Following the season, the league announced it had partnered with the National Arena League (NAL) to create a new league for the 2020 season under a new identity with two conferences: the CIF and NAL. However, it was announced on October 10 that the deal had been postponed, with both leagues playing their own individual schedules in 2020.
The CIF season will start on March 8th. For more information about this league, go to gocif.net.
The National Arena League (NAL) will start their third season with seven teams. The Jacksonville Sharks won their second title last season.
Current teams are: Carolina Cobras, Columbus Lions, Jacksonville Sharks, Jersey Flight, Massachusetts Pirates, Orlando Predators and West Virginia Roughriders.
Following the season, the NAL announced it had partnered with Champions Indoor Football (CIF) to create a new league for the 2020 season under a new identity with two conferences: the CIF and NAL. The Massachusetts Pirates chose to not join the merged league and the New York Streets were not mentioned as an included team. However, it was announced on October 10 that the deal had been postponed, with both leagues playing their own individual schedules in 2020. The Pirates rejoined the NAL and the league then added two teams that had originally been given conditional approval to join in the 2018 season, the Jersey Flight and the West Virginia Roughriders (then known as the Richmond Roughriders), from the American Arena League.
The NAL season kicks off on April 4th. For more information about this league, go to NationalArenaLeague.com.
The American Arena League (AAL) enters their second season with 10 teams. The West Virginia Roughriders were crowned league champions last season.
Current teams are: Carolina Cowboyz, Carolina Predators, Charlotte Thunder, Indianapolis Enforcers, Louisville Xtreme, Music City Fire, Pennsylvania Union, South Florida Thunder, Tampa Bay Tornadoes and West Michigan Ironmen.
I can’t tell you when the new season starts because their website is currently down.
The newest league is the American West Football Conference (AWFC) which enters their second season with three teams. The Idaho Horsemen won the league’s first title in 2019.
Current teams are: Idaho Horsemen, Wenatchee Valley Skyhawks and Yakima Canines.
For the 2020 season, the league announced expansion teams in Yakima, Washington, and the San Francisco Bay Area, although the Bay Area team never launched. In February 2020, the Reno Express was removed from the schedule and the Tri-Cities Fire folded, which led to the Idaho Horsemen and Wenatchee Valley Skyhawks both announce they would play independent schedules. The league then announced it would be playing the 2020 season with three teams — Idaho, Wenatchee, and Yakima — while looking for non-league teams to fill in the lost games including the minor outdoor team, Tri-City Rage, filling in for the Fire’s six scheduled away games.
The AWFC’s second season starts March 17th. For more information about this league, go to americanwestfootballconference.com.
There is also another indoor league named Arena Pro Football (APF) however, it is difficult to find any information about this league and functions more as a semi-pro league.
THE FUTURE OF INDOOR FOOTBALL
These five indoor football leagues are what’s left of the sport. Except for the IFL, the state of indoor football doesn’t seem to be very stable. The Arena Football League mentioned they might come back in some kind of format but I wouldn’t hold my breath on that happening.
What I would like to see for these leagues to merge into one nationwide league divided into geographic regions. Develop some regional rivalries and created some stability. I think that having two or three levels would help to grow the sport better. I just think these leagues would do well working together than as separate entities.
I still think there is a place for arena/indoor football. It is still an exciting variation of the outdoor version. No, it’s not the same but it’s still a lot of fun to watch. These five leagues are trying to keep it alive.