Everything You Need to Know about the Canadian Football League

Contrary to popular belief, the Canadian Football League features thrilling plays, incredible catches, jaw-dropping hits and generally good quality football.

In fact, some experts believe the CFL is better than the NFL. So, why isn’t it more popular? Should you spare some time to watch Canadian football? Before we answer these questions, learn how the league works and how it compares to the NFL.

1—Has 9 Teams and Two Divisions

The CFL has nine teams divided into two divisions—West and East. The league runs from June to November, with each team playing 18 matches before the end of the regular season.

The objective of the CFL is to compete for the Grey Cup, the league’s equivalence to the Super Bowl. In many cases, two teams from opposing divisions fight for this trophy.

However, the league has a rule that allows teams from the same division to face off in the Grey Cup game. This happens when the fourth-placed team in the Western division has more points than the third team in the East Division at the end of the regular season. The league usually transfers the West Division team to the East during the playoffs.

2—Larger Field, 12 Players

The standard CFL field runs 110 yards from goal line to goal line and 65 yards wide. This makes it 10 yards longer and 12 yards wider than the typical NFL field.

The CFL’s end zone is also deeper by 10 yards—20 yards versus the NFL’s 10 yards. Another difference is that the CFL has goal posts located at the front of the end zone and not at the back.

Although the CLF has bigger fields, it also features more players per team. Each team has 12 players, one more player compared to the NFL. With larger fields, teams in the CFL have more room for plays.

What’s more, the presence of an extra player makes the CFL more defense-driven. If they neglect defense, the opposing side could easily score now that the fields are larger and there are more players in the field.

3—You Can Bet on the CFL

Last year, Canada legalized single-sports betting, a move that will allow every football fan to bet on single matches instead of parlays. Canada hopes legalizing single-wager betting could create the same buzz and revenues states with legal sports betting in the US generate.

New Jersey, for example, makes $5 billion from online betting, $400m of which is tax income. Pennsylvania, Nevada, Delaware and New York also generate millions of dollars monthly from legal mobile betting.

Because many provinces are yet to commercial mobile betting, a lot of Canadians still prefer to bet on football through offshore bookmakers. Overseas betting sites based in Europe and South America support all major sports, anyways.

That said, don’t bet on the CFL before you learn how to gamble on sports like a professional. Visit cabets.ca for a guide on how to bet on Canadian football. As a bonus, you’ll discover the best CFL sportsbooks.

4—Three Downs

One of the reasons experts believe the CFL is better than the NFL is because of the three downs rule. Players in the CFL need to make quick offense moves to capitalize on every opportunity they have.

This also usually means players have to pass the ball efficiently instead of attempting risky moves with low returns. In the NFL, teams have four downs. Also, they don’t need to keep off one yard from the line of scrimmage, which often leads to all sorts of chaos.

5—Moving Before the Snap

Not only do CFL players stay one yard off the line of scrimmage but they can also be in motion before the snap. Due to this, receivers are usually in full speed at the snap while all the players coordinate to exploit defense as much as possible.

According to Jim Flannery from Bleacher Report, moving before the snap is one of the reasons the CFL is so entertaining. The rule opens up play in ways the NFL can’t.

It also encourages creativity to both the offense and the defense. The attackers have room to pass the ball before defense catches up. On the other end, defense has to react fast and brilliantly to stop the fast-running opponents from completing a touchdown.

6—No Fair Catch Rule

In the NFL, the receiving team can’t make a player after a punt. Instead, the offense side is given the chance to make a fair catch unopposed. Truth be told, the rule makes the NFL a little bit too soft.

In the CFL, the opposing side can make a play after a punt. The only condition is that they have to be five yards away before mounting an attack. Otherwise, they risk a 5-to-15-yard penalty.

Predictably, return attempts makes football more exciting. They are more opportunities for big plays, which means more entertainment in the CFL.

7—Play Clock and the Rogue

We’ve already established than things run faster in the CFL. This includes the play clock, which is limited to 20 seconds. As a result, teams in Canadian football don’t have as much time to substitute players, call plays or snap the ball compared to the NFL.

Additionally, CFL players lack the luxury of wasting time towards the end of a match—this happens a lot in the NFL.

That said, the CFL has a rule uncommon in American football known as the rouge. Basically, it’s a way to reward teams points for minor efforts. For example, if a plyer misses a field goal but the opposing side can’t return the ball from the end zone, they can earn a rouge point.


Although not as popular as the NFL, Canadian football is worth watching. It starts much earlier than the NFL anyway, so you could watch live football for more than two months before the NFL starts.

Importantly, the CFL has several rules that make it a tad more entertaining to watch: three downs, no fair catch rules and movements before the snap.

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