Chinese National Football League announces a 10 team season

The Chinese National Football League, CNFL announced at their recent annual meetings that there will be a 2020-2021 CNFL season.

Normally, the annual league meetings take place in Shanghai, where team reps from all over China convene and over a few days, teams propose and vote on new league rules, amendments to existing rules, and most importantly, the format of the league for the upcoming year, which includes a yes or no on teams wishing to join the league, scheduling, divisions, and more; but this year the league meetings took place over a video chat in a foreshadowing of what was to come, and there was one big takeaway:

While a few minor rules were changed, the biggest piece of news is that there will be a 2020-2021 CNFL season.

However, due to the chaotic nature of 2020, this also meant the league and its teams had to adapt to circumstances, and as a result, only 10 of the 21 playing teams in the league will be suiting up this fall, with the rest of the league choosing to either sit out altogether, with a few teams planning to only play local exhibition games to limit travel.

Out of the 21 teams, the Shanghai Titans, Shanghai Street Cats, Hangzhou Smilodons, Chengdu Pandaman, Guangzhou Apaches, Foshan Tigers, Beijing Barbarians, Zhengzhou Steamers, Qingdao Conquerors, and the Shenyang King Kong have all opted in into playing this season.

While dates haven’t been finalized, the matchups and weeks have been set, and league play is tentatively set to begin the third week of August. Each team will be playing a four-game regular season, and with only ten teams committed to playing this year, there will be no divisions. The top six teams will make the playoffs, with the top two earning a first-round bye.

The biggest impact on the league is that three semifinalists from last season, including the defending champions Wuhan Berserkers, will not be playing this season due to COVID-19 concerns. The Berserkers were widely considered the best team ever in China last season, and the Warriors and Warhawks have been league mainstays ever since the league was established in 2013.

While this is a tough loss for the league to see so many talented teams withdrawing for the 2020 season, several of the teams sitting out this season were to be expected and would not come to a shock.

Due to Hong Kong putting into place laws banning mass gatherings during the COVID-19 crisis, the trio of Hong Kong teams are out as there wouldn’t have been a feasible way for them to practice or host games.

The Taipei Predators also had to bow out  due to Taiwan’s COVID policies. They and any visiting teams, would have been subject to a 14-day quarantine before any game.

This is the lowest number of teams in the CNFL since 2015 when the league also only had 10 teams. Hopefully, this is just a one-year thing, and that when things return to normal next year, all the teams will also be back.

Allen Hu is a Chinese-American who grew up playing American Football in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. He primarily spends his time in both the United States and China