Football Icon

Football Leagues List

What are the leagues in football? How are they organized and different from each other? Here is a complete list of football leagues.


What are Football Leagues?

The sport of football has grown significantly in the last century, and it has exploded into Western culture. Football games make up 18 of the 19 most watched broadcasts in the United States history. Given its massive audience many leagues have been created to capitalize on the large interest. A league is a collection of teams with a governing body.

Competing for viewership against a giant league such as the NFL is no easy feat, and not all the leagues that have been created have lasted.

Professional Leagues

The defining feature of a professional league is that the players get paid to play. Each player receives a salary and in most cases salary caps are placed to maintain the fairness of the game.


The NFL is the unrivaled most popular and successful football league in the world. It increases its revenue every year, earning over 15 billion dollars this past year. It also is watched by tens of millions of people each week.

The NFL has 32 teams, 16 weeks during the season and teams compete to win the Super Bowl.


The Canadian Football League is the second largest professional football league. It runs during the summer while the NFL is holding its offseason. The season lasts 21 weeks and teams will play 18 games during that span. Nine teams compete for six playoff spots for a chance to win the Grey Cup.


The XFL firsts launched in 2001 but only lasted for a season before folding due to lack of fan interest. It is scheduled to re-launch in 2020 with an emphasis on speeding up the game.


The Arena Football League is the most well known arena league. Games are played in an arena rather than a standard football field. It is shorter, more narrow, and the sidelines are comparable to the side of an ice rink. Different rules are also used, which encourage high scoring games to appeal to the fan. The AFL has four teams in it and takes place during the summer.

Semi-Professional Leagues

There a few leagues out there that are classified as semi-professional. What that means is players are paid but usually not enough for it to be a full time job. Players need to get a second job on top of being a player.

Collegiate/Developmental Leagues

In these types of leagues players are not paid and it is viewed as a way to enter the NFL.


The largest of these leagues is college football. Players play for their school's team, are not paid, and the game follows standard football rules. Players, however, can be given scholarships to cover their academic expenses.


High school football is classified within this category. Similar to college football players play for their school's team and are not paid.

Search Results