AFI’s Final Europe Top 20: 2018 Coaches Poll – November 2018

It’s time for our final AFI Europe Top 20.Coaches Poll.

There have been a few changes from our last Top 20 Poll, with shifts both in the top 10 as well as among the #11-20th positions.

The seasons in all the major countries have ended with only Croatia’s championship final remaining. This will not affect our Top 20 rankings though.

AFI is proud to have the input of some of the best coaches in Europe on our  12 man panel which next season will grow even bigger. We’ve aggregated the choices of these top European coaches and executives and present them along with our own choices.

The AFI Coaches Poll is conducted regularly throughout the European regular season and during the post season, relying on a panel of coaches from European clubs. The panel is chosen by election, country by country plus independents, from a pool of coaches who have indicated to the American Football International their willingness to participate. Each coach submits a Top 20 with a first-place vote worth 20 points, second place 19 and so on down to one point for 20th.

We would like to extend a special thanks to this season’s panel which included nine coaches from seven nations, many of whom led teams in our poll as well as special football ambassador, Johannes Woudenberg. Making these choices throughout the season was a painstaking task so we thank each of them for their commitment and hard work.

  • Stan Bedwell – OC Bucharest Rebels (Romania)
  • Dan Levy – HC Prague Black Panthers (Czech Republic)
  • Dave Likins – DC Braunschweig New Yorker Lions (Germany)
  • Nick Johansen – HC Salzburg Ducks, (Austria)
  • Geoff Buffum – HC Calanda Broncos (Switzerland)
  • Shuan Fatah – HC Swarco Raiders (Austria)
  • Malik Jackson – HC Vukovi Belgrade (Serbia)
  • Juha Hakala- HC Helsinki Roosters (Finland)
  • Johannes Woudenberg – Ambassador at large (Holland)
  • Kirk Mastromatteo – HC Warsaw Eagles (Poland)

We continually work to improve and always welcome your comments and insight.

If you are interested in being a part of the AFI Coaches Poll in 2019 please email [email protected].

Now, for the rankings!


1. Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns (17-0 GFL1) – Germany (Last poll #1)

The Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns remain Europe’s #1 team after defending their German Football League title in a thrilling come-from-behind, edge-of-your-seat 21-19 victory over the Frankfurt Universe in German Bowl XL at Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark in Berlin. With that they have now gone undefeated since 2016 . In the playoffs they disposed of  the Cologne Crocodiles and then took care of the Dresden Monarchs.  They blanked the Kirchdorf Wildcats 40-0 in their final game before the playoffs. Their only tough obstacle was the Frankfurt Universe who they beat twice, each time by close scores. The most recent was a 12-9 win while the Unicorns turned back the Frankfurt Universe 17-7 earlier in the season. their main challengers in the GFL South. They averaged 39.9 points a game while giving up 11.6.  The Unicorns started the year in top spot after last year’s German championship win over the Braunschweig New Yorker Lions in German Bowl XXXIX. They finished the season undefeated with a 17-0 record.

Next up: Season complete

Photo: Manfred Loffler

2. Frankfurt Universe (14-3 GFL1 2-1 Big6) – Germany (Last poll #5)

The Frankfurt Universe came oh so close in their third season in the German Football League but fell just short losing in German Bowl XL 21-19 to the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns. Nevertheless they finished their finest season yet. To reach the championship final they first edged the Berlin Rebels in a quarterfinal thriller, and then defeated their playoff nemesis, the Braunschweig New Yorker Lions in double OT, 20-17. Frankfurt had wound up the regular season strong with a 55-14 win over the Allgau Comets. They had entered the GFL playoffs as a legitimate contender for the title. They pushed the Schwabisch Hall Unicorns to the limit in both regular season losses to them.  In the second one they held the lead into the second half but lost 12-9They lost the Eurobowl final to the New Yorker Lions by the slimmest of margins, 20-19. The week before, without their starting quarterback they lost 17-7 to the Schwabisch Hall Unicorns. after blanking the Stuttgart Scorpions 42-0 three weeks ago and downing Ingolstadt 40-26 the week before that.  They had started the GFL regular season by blanking the Munich Cowboys and overwhelming the Marburg Mercenaries 63-7. Then they whipped France’s La Courneuve Flash 48-6 in the Big6 thus qualifying for the Eurobowl final for the second year in a row.  With all the coaches and players signed and on-field success so far, it seems that Frankfurt is weathering the financial storm that had engulfed them.

Next up: Season complete


3. Helsinki Roosters (12-0 SAJL;1-0 Int.) – Finland (Last poll #3)

The Roosters have captured their seventh Finnish title, winning Maple Bowl XXXIX , beating the Kuopio Steelers 44-14.  Basically they ran away with Finland’s Maple League without a challenger  They had lopsided wins over every team in the league and at one point overwhelmed the Seinäjoki Crocodiles 88-21. They had already defeated the second place Kuopio Steelers 55-26 earlier in the season. They overwhelmed the Porvoo Butchers thee weeks ago. They opened their season in Finland with a one-sided victory over their Maple Bowl opponents, the Wasa Royals, beating them 48-7. They proved they were legitimate and  had surprised everyone by beating the Dacia Vienna Vikings in Vienna  41-37.  The shocker of a win under new/old head coach Juha Hakala put Finnish football back on the map. Last season, they defeated Sweden’s Carlstad Crusaders to win the Northern European Football League (NEFL) title.

Next up: Season completed

4. Swarco Raiders (15-2 AFL1; 3-0 CEFL; 1-0 Int.) – Austria (Last poll #4)

The Swarco Raiders won the Austrian Bowl in dramatic fashion, beating the Dacia Vienna Vikings51-48 on a last second field goal. With that they have completed a historic season winning the CEFL/NEFL Superfinal over Denmark’s Copenhagen Towers. They captured their 2nd straight CEFL Bowl title beating the Koc Rams from Turkey. The week before they defeated the Ljubljana Silverhawks in Austria. In fact, all year they have played outstanding football crushing the Dacia Vienna Vikings and then beating Central College (NCAA Div. III) and the Modling Rangers. The Raiders now occupy top spot in the Austrian Football LeagueSwarco had demolished the Wroclaw Panthers from Poland, previously Europe’s #6 team and have looked impressive midway through the Austrian season.

Next up: Season completed. Won Austrian title.

5. New Yorker Lions (12-3-1 GFL1; 3-0 Big6) – Germany (Last poll #2)

The New Yorker Lions have finally been knocked out of their number two spot and in fact dropped out of our top two for the first time in four years after losing in the German Football League semifinals in double overtime to the Frankfurt UniverseThey had easily beaten the Munich Cowboys in the quarterfinals. The Lions had tied the Dresden Monarchs to finish the regular season 28-28 and dropped 23-14 decision to the Berlin Rebels, their second loss to Berlin this year.  They had lost a close 24-21 decision to the Berlin Rebels earlier in the year.

The Lions rebounded after that hammering the Dresden Monarchs 44-24. The Lions won their fourth straight and sixth overall Eurobowl title, beating the #5 Frankfurt Universe 20-19. They had previously beaten both the Hamburg Huskies twice and the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes and Hildesheim Invaders. The Lions opened the season with a tight 10-6 win over the La Courneuve Flash from France in the Big6. They followed that up with a 60-0 trouncing of the Amsterdam Crusaders to qualify for the Eurobowl final.  The perennial challengers for both the number one spot in Europe and the German title were undone in the 2017 German championship game losing to the #1 ranked by a last second blocked field goal. 

Next up: Season complete, German semifinalists

Photo: Fabian Uebe

6. Berlin Rebels (11-4 GFL1) – Germany (Last poll, #7)

Despite losing in a thriller to the Frankfurt Universe in the German Football League quarterfinals, the Berlin Rebels hold onto their #6 spot after winning seven of their last eight including a second win over the New Yorker Lions.  Prior to that they had recorded deafening wins over the New Yorker Lions and Cologne Crocodiles. Under head coach Kim Kuchi the Rebels have reached the playoffs again in 2018. In 2017, they lost in the German quarterfinals to eventual champions the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns but pushed the Unicorns to overtime.

Next up: Season complete. German quarterfinalists

Photo: Christian Gosslar

7. AFC Dacia Vienna Vikings (9-3 AFL1; 0-1 Int.) – Austria (Last poll #8)

The Vikings have moved up one spot to 7th place in our coaches poll, leapfrogging the Dresden Monarchs. They remain in the top 10 despite losing in the Austrian Bowl, 51-48 to the Swarco Raiders. With the return of starting QB Garrett Safron late in the season, they rebounded with a semifinal win over the Graz Giants after beating the Giants 21-14 in the last game of the regular season. They had overwhelmed the Bratislava Monarchs 64-7 despite still missing starting Safron. They had fallen to #9  in a previous poll after losing in the Austrian Football League 24-21 to the Ljubljana Silverhawks. Last month, they were crushed by their arch rivals in Austria, the Swarco Raiders. Although they defeated the Modling Rangers 25-20 the week prior, Vienna was shocked by Finland’s Helsinki Roosters in early May at home in Charity Bowl XX., losing 41-37.  Prior to that the Vikings had jumped out to a 5-0 record in the Austrian Football League including a 35-28 win over the Swarco Raiders. In 2017, the Vikings enjoyed a resurgent year and finished back on top of the Austrian league, winning the Austrian title with a decisive victory over the Swarco Raiders. 

Next up: Season completed. Austrian runner-ups.

8. Dresden Monarchs (12-3-1 GFL) – Germany (Last poll #7)

The Dresden Monarchs reached the German Football League semifinals for the 5th time since 2012 but still came up short. They lost to the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns after beating the Allgäu Comets in the quarterfinals. They wound up the GFL regular season with a 28-28 tie with the New Yorker Lions in Braunscheig. Dresden went undefeated in their last six games and looked impressive doing so.  A perennial contender for the playoffs in Germany,the Monarchs finished 2017 as the #10 team in Europe after losing two of their last two games including the quarterfinal game to the Frankfurt Universe. 

Next up: Season complete, German semifinalists


Dresden RB Glen Toonga Photo: Dirk Sukow, Bild Dresden

9. Milano Seamen (12-0 IFL; 2-1 EFL) – Italy (Last poll #10)

Italy’s 2018 champions, the Milano Seamen have had an incredible season going undefeated in the Italian league and winning two of three games in the European Football League. The Seamen had suffered a heart-breaking loss to Germany’s Potsdam Royals in the EFL final following a fourth quarter collapse and with all the other shuffling in the Top 20, the coaches panel has moved them up to #10. They finished the regular season in Italy with two crushing wins over the UTA Pesaro (50-0) and the Milano Rhinos 49-12. Last month, Milano unleashed on the top team in France, the Thonon Black Panthers in EFL play, whipping them 49-3The Seamen defeated the only other unbeaten team in Italy last week, the Parma Panthers in decisive fashion.  They also defeated the Badalona Dracs in EFL play.

Next up: Season completed. Won Italian title.

10. Copenhagen Towers (12-0 DAFF; 3-1 NEFL) – Denmark (Last poll #10)

Denmark’s Copenhagen Towers have held onto their 10th place after winning the Danish title without a loss. They defeated the Triangle Razorbacks in the Mermaid Bowl to cap an unbeaten Danish season and in fact lost only one game in 2018, a decisive loss to the Swarco Raiders in the CEFL/NEFL Superfinal. They had previously notched lopsided wins in the Danish league after defeating Sweden’s Carlstad Crusaders in a thriller 44-43 to win the Norther European Football League title. They had already climbed three spots in our previous ranking after overwhelming wins in the Danish American Football league. They started their rise in the rankings in April after whipping the Tamworth Phoenix 50-7  in NEFL play and winning two straight in Denmark. The Towers also traveled to Oslo, Norway in the Northern European Football League a month ago and defeated the Oslo Vikings  21-10. In 2017, the Towers won the Danish crown by dominating  the Sollerod Gold Diggers in Mermaid Bowl XXIX. 

Next up: Season complete, won Danish title.

Photo: Michael Quist

11. Calanda Broncos (12-0 SAFV; 1-1 EFL) – Switzerland (Last poll, #11)

The Calanda Broncos won  their 2nd straight Swiss title beating the Geneva Seahawks 44-12 after finishing the regular season in Switzerland unbeaten.  Our coaches panel has moved them up four spots. They had previously lost a heartbreaker to Germany’s Potsdam Royals 33-31. The Broncos finished the Swiss season  with a 10-0 record and a points difference of 423-105. In April, they crushed Belgium’s Brussels Tigers 39-0 in European Football League play. They won the Swiss league in 2017 after recording a lopsided win in the championship game over the Basel Gladiators.

Next up: Season completed. Won Swiss title.

Photo: Sergio Brunetti

12. Koc Rams (8-0 TFL; 2-1 CEFL) – Turkey (Last poll, #12)

Turkey’s Koc Rams defended their title after beating the Bogazici Sultans 52-21 earning them a steep climb up the rankings. The Rams lost in the CEFL Bowl final to Austria’s Swarco Raiders. They won their semifinal game in Turkey after finishing the Turkish regular season undefeated (a loss to the Yeditepe Eagles was erased when the Eagles were disqualified from the TFL) The Rams won both their CEFL games, overwhelming the Moscow Patriots 63-21 and outlasting Serbian champions, the Kragujevac Wild Boars  in CEFL action, beating them 47-41 in a shootout..

Next up: Season completed. Won Turkish title.

13. Carlstad Crusaders (10-0 SAFF; 2-1 NEFL) – Sweden (Last poll #13)

The Carlstad Crusaders have held onto their 13th place ranking although they lost the Swedish championship for the first time in a decade, losing to the Stockholm Mean Machines 42-41.  They had barely survived their semifinal game against the Uppsala 86ers. They had fallen three spots according to our coaches panel after being shocked at home 44-43 by Denmark’s Copenhagen Towers in the NEFL title game. Nevertheless, the Crusaders continue their dominance in the Swedish Superserien with another lopsided win, this time over the Uppsala 86ers, since our last poll. They had beated the Örebro Black Knights and Stockholm Mean Machines with relative ease. Five weeks ago the Crusaders comfortably handled British champions, the Tamworth Phoenix in NEFL action. The Crusaders remain undefeated in Sweden. Last month, Carlstad manhandled the Norwegian champion Oslo Vikings.

Next up: Season completed. Swedish runner-ups.

Crusaders QB Philip Juhlin Photo: Mike Ashton

14. Badalona Dracs (8-0 LNFA; 1-1 EFL) – Spain (Last poll, #15)

The Dracs have moved up one spot in the view of our coaches after barely winning the Spanish championship, the Spanish Bowl.  It was the first game all year they had been pushed by a Spanish team and they had to overcome a 19 point second half deficit to win.They had had an easier time in the playoffs with a convincing 48-0 semifinal win in the Spanish playoffs over Madrid’s Osos Rivas.They have previous won  their quarterfinal game in Spain 78-12 against the Gijon Mariners. They are 1-1 in EFL play after they recorded a stunning 37-20 victory over France’s leading team, the Thonon Black Panthers in EFL action a month ago.

Next up: Season complete. Won Spanish title.

Photo: Lola Morales

15. Stockholm Mean Machines (8-4 SAFF) – Sweden (Last poll, #14)

The Stockholm Mean Machines stunned the Swedish and European football communities by upsetting the eight-time Swedish champions, the Carlstad Crusaders 42-41, to win their first title since 2009. Ironically, Stockholm was the last team to win the Swedish crown before Carlstad began their streak. The Mean Machines finished the regular season with a 4-4 record, but in the playoffs found another gear with a convincing 35-14 win over the Örebro Black Knights. Still, after losing to Carlstad badly in both previous meetings this year, their championship win came as a surprise. They have made the biggest rise in the polls of any team.

Next up: Season complete. Won Swedish title.

Photo: Stefan Akander

16. Prague Black Panthers (8-0 CAAF; 0-2 CEFL) – Czech Republic (Last poll #19)

The Prague Black Panthers completed an unbeaten season in the Czech league by decisively beating the Ostrava Steelers in the title game 30-7. They have slid two spots in our rankings  but had a season which saw them achieve a  an amazing 456-54 points differential in 10 games. They had dropped a 39-22 decision to Poland’s Wroclaw Panthers, in the CEFL prior to thatThe Black Panthers blanked the Pardubice Stallions 50-0 in the Czech league the week before. Prague dropped a 44-21 decision to Austria’s Swarco Raiders last month in CEFL play.

Next up: Season complete. Won Czech title.

17. Kragujevac Wild Boars (9-0 SAAF; 1-1 CEFL) – Serbia (Last poll #17)

The Kragujevac Wild Boars have held onto their #17 spot after running through the Serbian league undefeated. Last week they overwhelmed the Bor Golden Bears 35-0 and prior to that the Kikinda Mammoths 55-0. They were defeated by Turkey’s Koc Rams in CEFL play after first beating the Moscow Patriots 34-20.In 2017, they finished the Serbian season in style winning the championship game over the Novi Sad Dukes to defend their title. They also held their own against the Swarco Raiders in losing the Central European title game.

Next up: Season complete. Won Serbian title.

Photo: Igor Lazarevic

18. La Courneuve Flash (10-2 FFFA; 0-2 Big6) – France (Last poll, 18)

The La Courneuve Flash have at the number 18 ranking in the opinion of our panel. They won the French title for the second year in a row and 11th time overall, defeating the Thonon Black Panthers 20-14. After losing two of the first three games of the season in France, they went on a tear winning nine straight including the  Casque de Diamant. Although they dropped a close 10-6 decision to the powerful Braunschweig New Yorker Lions, they  were overwhelmed by Frankfurt48-6. Nevertheless, they have impressed our panel enough to return to the list.

Next up: Season completed, Won French title.

19. Cologne Crocodiles (7-6-1 GFL1) – Germany (Last poll, #20)

The Crocodiles have climbed further up our list to the #19 spot in the opinion of our panel after reaching the German quarterfinals. Cologne won their last two games of the season after losing six straight to secure a playoff spot and salvage their season. They had opened the season impressively going unbeaten in six games before their slide. They have managed to clamber back up on the list although they did not beat a team with a +.500 record all year.

Next up:  Season complete, German quarterfinalists

20. Wroclaw Panthers (9-1 LFA; 1-1 CEFL)) – Poland (Last poll #16)

The Panthers have fallen another four spots in our coaches poll after losing in the Polish championship to the Bialystok Lowlanders 14-13. They had lost lost their starting quarterback and key defensive back who left the team late in the season. They had previously beaten the Lowlanders 62-27.  The week before, they had thumped arch rivals, the Gdynia Seahawks 35-7. They had rebounded in the CEFL  earlier in May by downing the Prague Black Panthers 39-22.  Although that game was for pride alone, it helped atone for the lopsided 63-21 loss to Austria’s Swarco Raiders the week before. The result of that loss was the biggest drop in rankings thus far four weeks ago. Nevertheless the Panthers have now won six straight games in Poland’s LFA including two decisive wins over the Gdynia Swahawks. They won the 2017 Polish championship in dominant fashion. They surprised the Raiders in Central European Football League last year, forcing the Raiders to come from behind to win the game. The Panthers were undefeated in Poland and soundly beat Denmark’s Triangle Razorbacks in CEFL action.

Next up: Season completed. Polish runner ups.

Photo: Nadine Bartz

Honorable Mention:  London Warriors, Great Britain; Allgäu Comets, Germany; Potsdam Royals, Germany; Białystok Lowlanders, Poland;  Kuopio Steelers, Finland; Munich Cowboys, Germany; Marburg Mercenaries, Germany; Bolzano Giants, Italy; Murcia Cobras, Spain; Graz Giants, Austria; SBB Vukovi Belgrade, Serbia; Parma Panthers, Italy; Thonon Black Panthers, France; Geneva Seahawks, Switzerland.

To all photographers: If we have used one of your photos without a credit, it is usually because we could not find your name. Please let us know and we will fix.

American Football International is your source for news and updates about American Football outside the United States!