The Arena Football League will play the 2017 season, their 30th as a league.
There will be only four teams that will play in the 30th season – the Tampa Bay Storm, the Philadelphia Soul, the Cleveland Gladiators and the newest team in the Washington Valor.
Talks have gone around that there are two possible teams in San Antonio and Sacramento, but that would not take place until the 2018 season. The 2017 season will be played with just four teams.
Executives from all four teams got on to a conference call on Thursday evening and came the decision. Nothing is known about the schedule yet, such as how long the league will be during the 2017 season.
Arena Football League Death Knell?
For years, American football players that failed to make the NFL’s 53-man roster often turned to the AFL to keep their professional football dreams alive. Unfortunately, the league may not survive the next few years to be that alternative for athletes.
According to Troy Kirby, of Sportstao.com, franchise instability has always been the biggest criticism of the AFL since its inception.
“Since 1987, there have been 57 defunct AFL teams, 81 total AFL markets. That’s almost 2 AFL teams per season folding. That’s nearly 3 AFL markets per year being abandoned. This is a nightmare, as it creates a resistance where no market doesn’t have a bad story of a former team screwing them out of corporate sponsorship, ticket sales or some other issue. Venues in those markets are less likely to deal with an AFL team, simply by league affiliation and past promises not kept.”
With the arena game’s disillusioned fan base and struggling business model the traditional games’ global counterparts may provide another avenue for American football. International leagues in Canada, Germany, Mexico and now China may now be the best alternative for players looking to extend their careers.
Only time will tell if the Arena Football League survives to renew itself, but as anyone watching the NFL’s International Series knows, the thirst for American football is growing strong beyond the borders of the United States.