Arena Football League

Arena Football League

The History of the Arena Football League

The Arena Football League can be broken down into three chapters so to speak. The First Chapter was the build up, from 1986 when the league first began to form, to 2008 when they declared bankruptcy.

Chapter two would be when the league was purchased and revived in 2009 and running for another ten seasons until another bout with bankruptcy in 2019, just before Covid 19 struck which surely would have led to the league shuttering if they had attempted to stay afloat.

By it’s last season in 2019, the league had fallen to just six teams, and lacked the national acclaim it had once built up over the first 22 seasons which saw the league grow to as many as 19 teams in 2004 before its initial demise, and rebirth at 15. It looks like the 2024 version of the AFL, chapter three, if you aiming high with beginning the league with 16 teams in 2024.

Arena Football League Legacy Markets

Legacy markets were very important to the AFL (3.0), they understood the value of the names that are associated with the AFL. The Georgia Force, Philadelphia Soul, Albany Firebirds, Nashville Kats, Louisiana Voodoo, and Orlando Predators. However they also have brought in a healthy mixture of teams that have been established from other leagues.

Arena Football League Absorbs the Champions Indoor Football League

Heading into 2024, when the AFL had announced it would be returning, it had begun to seek out teams to add for the league’s first season back. Choosing to pursue established teams rather than look for new ownership groups across the board, they began to reach out to prospective owners.

This included teams involved in the National Arena League which had fallen down to just five teams by season’s end, the Champions Indoor Football League which had watched three teams announce their departure, but the arrival of just one new team in the Wichita Regulators.

The first domino to fall in this string of five, was the Billings Outlaws. They actually wound up the first team to be officially announced by the AFL on August 29th, 2023.

Just days later we saw the second of many announcements to come with the formerly known West Texas Warbirds moving to the AFL, and rebranding as the West Texas Desert Hawks. It took nearly another month before the Orlando Predators were officially announced, although they had all but cemented their move long before via a podcast with the owners. Two days after Orlando, Everett Washington was announced as a destination of the next team.

Washington chose to have a fan vote on their team-name, and remained nameless until their contest came to a conclusion. It wasn’t until October 26th, that the Washington Wolfpack were officially born. Before we got the name for Washington, we would get official announcements for the Rapid City Marshals on October 3rd, this was the second of 5 dominoes that needed to fall in the CIF, but it was at this point the general public knew that the rest of the teams would make the move based on comments made by the commissioner in the Press Conference.

On October 5th, it was announced Albany would again have an arena football team in 2024, but this time they would return to the Firebirds namesake, owned by the same group that had sold the rights to the Empire while in the National Arena League. On October 6th, we got not one, not two, but three teams all in the state of Kansas when the Wichita Regulators, Salina Liberty, and Southwest Kansas Storm all moved to the AFL.

At this point the league had announced nine teams, but it contradicted their initial announcement of 16 cities, given that only Orlando, and Odessa (Desert Hawks) were on the initial list. On October 11th, they found another team to move to a market they had aimed to have a team in from the initial announcement when the Iowa Rampage were announced. Originally owned by Dom Montero, and slated to join the American Indoor Football League as the River City Rage, the team was sold to Trevor Burdett, one of the 2023 owners of the Topeka Tropics. Immediately upon purchasing the team, Burdett and company set about a rebrand, and moved to Iowa.

Ten cities, in less than two months, and suddenly the league was taking shape fast but not without it’s critics. On October 25th their 11th team was announced nearly exactly 2 months to the day from their first team being announced. The Oregon Blackbears based in Salem, would occupy another city announced as one of their initial target cities. With this announcement also came the news that Chuck Jones head coach of the AWFC’s Oregon High Desert Storm would be the new head coach for the Blackbears in 2024, and the ownership group would include Oregon Alum Kayvon Thibodeaux.

On October 26th it was announced that Washington had settled on the Wolfpack name. It was also announced by the league, that Mike McCoy was named as the Deputy Commissioner of the League overseeing the central division. McCoy was previously involved with the Wichita Regulators, and had been named as the CIF Commissioner for 2024 prior to the league being absorbed by the AFL.

Arena Football League Taking Shape Quickly

On October 25th, the AFL stood at 11 teams. By November 10th, they stood at 14 teams announcing the Nashville Kats returning with Jeff Fisher former Tennessee Titans Head Coach involved, Louisiana Voodoo hiring a well known coach in the area in James Shiver, and finally on November 10th we were informed the Philadelphia Soul would return with former NBA Player Mustafa Shakur, and Logan Venture the parties backing the team.

On November 1st it was also announced that there would be a league-wide announcement coming on November 16th in Times Square, in which the schedule for 2024 would be announced. The Chicago Rush also put out posts saying they had an announcement coming on November 17th. Suddenly it became a race to get the teams finalized before the clock stuck midnight on the 15th of November. With rumored franchises coming to Minnesota, Cleveland, Chicago, Austin, Arizona, and St. Louis, there was still a lot of work to get done to get to the 20 teams once discussed in Facebook groups everywhere.

Reality struck, and multiple cities simply had to be put on the back burner, unable to get everything properly in order to make it for the 2024 season, but buying themselves another calendar year to build up their fan bases, and financial situations for 2025. Arizona, and St. Louis ultimately ended up missing the deadline, with legacy cities Minnesota, Cleveland, Chicago, and Austin all getting their cards to the commissioner before their clock hit zeros.

Eighteen teams, spread from Washington to Orlando, and Albany to Odessa, a national league, the true return of the Arena Football League.

Shady Sports AFL Transaction Tracker


Lee Hutton

Chief Executive Officer:

Travelle Gaines

Deputy Commissioners:

Mike McCoy

Mike Hines

Shady Sports Network AFL Content


Billings Outlaws

Billings Outlaws

Rapid City Marshals

Wichita Regulators

Southwest Kansas Storm

Salina Liberty

Louisiana Voodoo

Washington Wolfpack

Oregon Blackbears

Albany Firebirds

Orlando Predators

WTX Desert Hawks

Nashville Kats

Iowa Rampage

Georgia Force

Philadelphia Soul

Minnesota Myth

2025 Markets:



AFL Timeline:

Originally Launched in 1987

First Bankruptcy in 2008

Relaunched in 2010 under group of team owners

Second Bankruptcy in 2019

Relaunched in 2023 under new owners

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