The History of the IFL

By: Oliver Nissi and Adam Pasquale Jr.
March 13, 2021

Back in August 2020, the Massachusetts Pirates announced it would become the first professional football organization in the Eastern region of the United States to join the Indoor Football League. The addition of the Pirates makes it a total of 12 teams that will compete in the IFL this upcoming season. Generally operated in the Midwest and Western regions of the country, the addition of the Pirates has already begun the process of the league expanding nationwide.

The Indoor Football League came into existence back in 2008 after a merger between the Intense Football League and the United Indoor Football League. Led by commissioner Todd Tyron, the IFL headquarters are based in Grand Island, Nebraska. While most teams will begin play on “IFL Kickoff Weekend” in mid-May, the league will officially kick off its 13th season the weekend of Friday, April 23rd, with the Pirates opening up the season on Saturday, April 24th on the road.

The team to beat in the IFL this year is the Sioux Falls Storm, as they are the defending league champions. In addition to winning the United Bowl in 2019, the Storm have a total of seven championships since the league began and have appeared in all but one United Bowl in league history. The Storm had a stretch of six straight United Bowl victories from 2011-2016. They also had a similar stretch from 2005-2008 where they won four consecutive championships when they played in the United Indoor Football League.

Storm QB Lorenzo Brown (left) was named the 2019 United Bowl MVP, the second of his career.

The Arizona Rattlers are also a powerhouse in today’s IFL. The Rattlers won the United Bowl in their first season in the IFL in 2017, after coming over from the Arena Football League. Overall, they have appeared in two of three championship games and are fresh off a 16-1 season in 2019.

The Iowa Barnstormers, other than Sioux Falls and Arizona, are the only other active IFL team to win a United Bowl, which came in 2018. A now defunct professional arena football organization, the Billings Outlaws won the first two IFL championships in 2009 and 2010.

Not long after the IFL formed, the league started receiving lots of interest from other leagues and teams across the United States. In its inaugural season in 2009, the IFL had 19 total teams competing. The “United Bowl” name originated from the United Indoor Football League and has been used for all championship contests since 2009.

Recently in 2018, the IFL celebrated its tenth anniversary. They also had the highest per-game attendance in league history that season. The IFL has excelled at entertaining its fans and developing talent over the last decade. Their strong commitment to their players and fans has led them to be America’s longest continually-running professional indoor football league.

In December 2019, the IFL announced a partnership with Ohio businessman Steve Germain, who acquired the rights to the IFL’s national sponsorships, advertising, broadcast rights, licensing, marketing, and communications. The agreement gives the league its first national-level sponsorship and broadcast sales. In addition to this investment, Germain also purchased two expansion teams, the Frisco Fighters, who begin their first IFL season in 2021, and the Columbus Wild Dogs, who begin play in 2022.

As for the Pirates, the organization will need to adjust to a new league full of fresh competition. Luckily, the Pirates are still a very young franchise and have experience with entering leagues before. Back in 2017, the Pirates announced it would play their inaugural season in the National Arena League, their former league, and begin play in 2018. In their first season as an organization, the Pirates finished the regular season with a league-best 11-5 record, made the playoffs, and hosted a postseason game. Unfortunately, their season came to a halt after a 50-36 loss to the Columbus Lions in the semifinals. The team found similar success in the following year, as they made the playoffs but lost in the semifinals again, this time in a 30-26 nailbiter to the Carolina Cobras.

The Pirates are beyond excited to make the transition to the IFL in 2021 and are ready to make their presence known. You can watch the Pirates begin their United Bowl journey against the Louisville Xtreme on Saturday, April 24th at 7:05 PM/ET. The game will be held at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Massachusetts Pirates are members of the Indoor Football League (IFL). The Pirates play all home games at the DCU Center located at 50 Foster St. Worcester, MA. 01608. For more information on the Massachusetts Pirates please call (508) 452-MASS (6277), email contact@masspiratesfootball.com or visit http://www.masspiratesfootball.com. Single-game tickets are available online at ticketmaster.com or the DCU Center Box Office. For season, half-season, luxury, or group ticket packages please call 508-452-MASS (6277). Follow the Pirates on Facebook via Facebook.com/MAPirates, Instagram @mass.pirates, and Twitter @mass_pirates. #GetHooked #AllAboard