When was the NFL Formed?

The NFL is America's game, and now a worldwide phenomenon. But when exactly did the NFL begin?

When was the NFL Formed?
Wade McElwain

Written by: Wade McElwain

(Senior Sports Writer)

Fact checked by: Umaima Saeed

(Sports Writer)

Last updated: 2024-01-05

The NFL-American Football

The National Football League (NFL) stands tall as a symbol of American sporting excellence, captivating millions worldwide with its exhilarating games and illustrious history. Its inception traces back to the early 20th century when the seeds of professional football were sown, evolving into the powerhouse league we know today.
 But when was the NFL actually formed?  
Let’s take a look at the history of the NFL, when it was established, and the changes and incarnations along the way.

The Genesis-Birth of the NFL

The founding of NFL teams can be traced to the American Professional Football Association (APFA), founded on September 17, 1920, in Canton, Ohio. With representatives from several regional professional football teams, the APFA aimed to create structure and legitimacy for the sport. It wasn’t the first time a group of rich men decided to start a sports league, but it would go on to be the biggest.  Jim Thorpe, a legendary American athlete, was elected as its first president.


The NFL was officially founded in 1920, and a whole bunch of history was yet to come on that.  In 1922, the APFA rebranded itself as the National Football League (NFL), marking the beginning of an extraordinary journey. Initially, the league struggled with financial instability, competition from rival leagues, and organisational challenges. Yet, through resilience and visionary leadership, the NFL gradually gained traction and established itself as the premier professional football league in the United States. Sunday Fundays became the 21st century church of American entertainment. 

Only two of the original founding members are still in the league today, the Decatur Staleys (now Chicago Bears) and the Chicago Cardinals (now Arizona Cardinals)-the oldest team in the league.  While the original version of the NFL was created in 1920, the contemporary version of the NFL was founded later. 

The AFL-NFL Merger: A Game-Changing Union

The 1960s witnessed fierce competition between the NFL and the upstart American Football League (AFL), both vying for dominance in professional football.  The NFL was the established brand, but it was also seen as too stuck in their ways, and less racially inclusive in the turbulent 1960s’.  The AFC started after frustrations with the monopoly of football held by the NFL, and a desire to open up the game to open up American football to fans and owners.  Would be AFC owners were known as the Foolish Club, for daring to challenge the power of the NFL. This rivalry led to bidding wars for players and escalated tensions between the two leagues.  

In a groundbreaking move, the NFL and AFL announced their merger in 1966, marking a pivotal moment in football history. The agreement laid the groundwork for a unified league with two conferences: the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC). The historic merger culminated in the inaugural Super Bowl in 1967, pitting the champions of each conference against each other and captivating audiences worldwide.  

The merger not only elevated the quality of competition but also broadened the NFL's reach, fostering a sense of unity among fans and establishing the Super Bowl as an annual spectacle.
 With the AFL and NFL solidified, the power of the new NFL was about to make its mark on the sporting world. 

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The Legacy of Legends and Milestones

The NFL's history is adorned with iconic players, revered coaches, and groundbreaking moments that etched its legacy. The likes of Jim Brown, Joe Montana, Walter Payton, and Jerry Rice became synonymous with excellence, shaping the league's identity through their unparalleled skills and achievements.

Landmark events such as the "Ice Bowl" between the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys in 1967, the creation of the Super Bowl in 1966, and the introduction of the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 solidified the NFL's prominence in American culture. These moments not only captivated audiences but also propelled the league into the forefront of sports entertainment. Sunday and the NFL became synonymous.

When the NFL was first started, these kind of milestones were but a mere dream, and they were about to grow into a global reality. 

Evolution and Global Reach

Over the decades, the NFL has evolved significantly, embracing technological advancements, expanding its fan base, and exploring international markets. The league's commitment to innovation, evidenced by advancements in broadcasting, player safety measures, and fan engagement initiatives, has sustained its relevance in an ever-evolving sports landscape.  

Furthermore, the NFL's international endeavours, including games played abroad and initiatives to grow the sport globally, have contributed to its status as a transcendent cultural phenomenon, captivating audiences far beyond American borders.  

While the NFL might be ‘America’s Game’, it has certainly seen a meteoric rise in global popularity, and occupies 93 of the 100 highest rated programs every year in America.  When the NFL was formed, who would have thought it would make such an impact on America and beyond?

Are you Ready for Some Football?

The NFL's journey from its humble beginnings to its current stature as a global sports behemoth is a testament to the passion of players, the dedication of fans, and the visionary leadership that shaped its destiny. Not to mention a sport that dominates Sundays, and is a religion to ardent fans.  As it continues to evolve, the NFL remains an emblem of athleticism, camaraderie, and the unifying power of sports, leaving an indelible mark on the annals of sporting history.  

In tracing the league's origins, celebrating its milestones, and acknowledging its transformative merger, one can't help but marvel at the enduring legacy of the NFL—a legacy that continues to inspire generations and cement its place as an American cultural treasure.  

So when you think about when the NFL was created, it was over a 100 years ago.  Take that pickle ball. 
 

FAQ’s

How long has the NFL been around?  
-The NFL was founded in 1920. What year is this?

How many teams did the NFL start with? 
 -10 teams in 1920

Which states were the 1920 NFL teams from?

-4 from Ohio; 2 from Indiana; 2 from Illinois; and 2 from New York 

In what year was the first Super Bowl?
-Jan 15, 1967

Who won the first Super Bowl?

-Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10

Wade McElwain

Wade McElwain

Wade McElwain is our Mr. NFL, a bona fide North American sports nut who knows about NBA, NHL, MLB, PGA plus MMA boxing and more. Originally from Canada, Wade is also an international award-winning stand-up comedian; host of numerous TV game shows; and a TV producer & writer. He also runs NFL in London-the largest NFL fan group in Europe, and has hosted NFL events at Wembley and around the world. Yes, he lives alone and does nothing but watch sports.

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