NFL Origins: How Did the League Begin?

Today, the National Football League is the most popular sports league in North America. On average, it has the highest attendance of any pro sports league on the planet. And the Super Bowl is one of the biggest club sporting events in the world. Much of the NFL’s growth is attributed to the league’s former commissioner Pete Rozelle, who led the NFL from 1960 to 1989. But how did the NFL come into being in the first place?

Formation of the American Professional Football Conference

At the turn of the 20th century, football was becoming increasingly popular, with teams like the Canton Bulldogs and Akron Pros playing semi-pro and amateur games. That eventually led to a meeting held on August 20, 1920. Representatives of the Canton Bulldogs, Akron Pros, Dayton Triangles, and Cleveland Indians met at the Jordan and Hupmobile car showroom in Canton, Ohio, to discuss ways of raising the standard of professional football and eliminating bidding for players between rival clubs. Thus, the American Professional Football Conference was born.

At the time, no one could have guessed just how popular the forthcoming football league would become. Football fans from a century ago were not able to watch games on television or play games like Madden NFL 20 and NFL 2K. But today, it is simple for fans to immerse themselves in the action by playing football games online, as well as playing a variety of sports-based slot games on excellent platforms like

Formation of the American Professional Football Association

On September 17, 1920, club representatives from various states held another meeting at the Hupmobile showroom, which was owned by Ralph Hay, the owner of the Canton Bulldogs. The result of the meeting was the formation of the American Professional Football Association, which was renamed two years later in 1922 as the National Football League. The first league consisted of 14 teams. And only two of those clubs remain to this day: the Decatur Staleys, which later became the Chicago Bears, and the Chicago Cardinals, which later became the Arizona Cardinals. The league’s first president was Jim Thorpe, who is arguably the greatest athlete from that period. Thorpe helped to make the sport credible. It was the beginning of a journey that would eventually make NFL football the nation’s favorite sport.

The First Season of the NFL

In the first season in 1920, the league did not keep official standings, and clubs played games that included non-league opponents. The very first game featuring a team from the then-called American Professional Football Association was held on September 26, 1920, at Douglas Park in Rock Island, Illinois. The Rock Island Independents crushed the non-league club St. Paul Ideals 48-9. The first game to take place between two league teams occurred one week later when the Dayton Triangles thrashed the Columbus Panhandles 14-0 at Triangle Park. And the first full week of league play began on October 3, 1920. The first season’s champions were the Akron Pros, who had an 8-0-3 regular-season record.

The Rise of the NFL

Although the NFL was the foremost professional football league in the US, and it rapidly grew in popularity over its first decade, the 1930s and 1940s saw the NFL facing a large number of rival pro leagues. There were at least three distinct American Football Leagues, as well as the All-America Football Conference and various regional football leagues. But by the 1950s, the NFL had seen off all of those rival leagues, and it soon had a monopoly on US professional football. The only major competition to remain in North America was in Canada, which formerly became the Canadian Football League in 1958. However, Canadian football differed to the US game, so the CFL managed to survive as an independent league.

In the 1960s, the NFL faced another rival professional league. The fourth American Football League began in 1960, and it quickly challenged the established NFL. The AFL became massively popular and gained lucrative TV contracts. But on June 8, 1960, the two leagues announced they were merging. The merger took full effect in 1970. The rest is history.