New American Football League In China

There is new American football league in China.

Although the American Football League of China (AFLC) has undeniably been the most prominent nationwide football league in China for the past three years, they may face a competent challenger in the coming 2016 season.

The 20-team CityBowl Alliance has formally announced their plans for 2016 with over 30 games scheduled from April to November, culminating in a championship game at the end of the year. Teams will also play games with opponents outside the Alliance not included in the schedule. The first game will have the Shenyang Hunters hosting the Dalian Poseidon on April 9.

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Rankings system

CityBowl started in 2015 when a group of teams who had played in the AFLC previously, decided to break away due to the comparatively more restricted schedule among other reasons. Soon they recruited several new teams to join them and began promoting it as a loose-knit “league” which actually served as a platform for all teams to freely arrange games as they saw fit.

Throughout 2015, the 12 teams in CityBowl played a total of 29 games, both within and outside of the Alliance. Since the Alliance had no fixed league schedule, third-party enthusiasts started to borrow the BCS-like system from the NCAA to rank the teams, and these rankings were eventually recognized by the Alliance.

The Beijing Cyclones, after a convincing win against the previously undefeated Suzhou Blue Knights, were crowned the season champion with a 4-1 record. Coming into 2016, CityBowl expanded to 20 teams and will formally adopt the aforementioned ranking system. After the regular season, the top two teams will play a final championship game.

As far as season outlook goes, the original AFLC teams have an obvious edge in terms of talent and experience. Boasting a strong line on both sides of the ball, the Beijing Cyclones remain the favorite for the top spot. However, last year’s undefeated (albeit with a relatively weak schedule) Guangzhou Goats and the revitalized Suzhou Blue Knights will surely attempt to knock off Cyclones from their seat. The Hangzhou Ospreys and Chengdu Mustangs round out the preseason projected top five.

Other teams from last season are Shenyang Hunters, Wuxi Tridents, Nanchang Gun Cavalry, Shenzhen Buffalos, Hefei Bullfinches and Wuhan Griffins, who all have several games under their belt last year but few victories. The remaining Tianjin Pirates played in the inaugural 2013 AFLC season but suffered a hiatus in 2015.

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The expansion teams of 2016 do not have much game experience, with the Nanjing Emperors being the most promising team to break out, as they have already played and won games against CityBowl teams in 2015. Located in the northwest Xinjiang province, the Urumqi Wranglers and Shihezi Pioneers have played against each other, but will face a much tougher challenge to arrange for games with other teams all thousands of miles away.

In the meantime, while the Hong Kong Fenice and the Dalian Poseidon are seeking their first formal victory, while the Shijiazhuang Liberators, Jiaxing Hornets and Wenzhou Redbucks will be looking forward to their first games.

Finally, there is news that CityBowl champion Beijing Cyclones are in discussion with AFLC runner-ups the Shanghai Nighthawks for a home-away series in mid-year, which will certainly be an exciting matchup.

Brian Zhao
Brian Zhao keenly follows and writes about American football in China, and particularly helps with the officiating aspect for leagues and teams over there. He manages the ChinaBlitz blog to report news and developments from local grassroot teams.
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