Professional Football In The United States: IFL Amongst The Best

By: Oliver Nissi
Pirates Insider
March 27, 2021

Outside the NFL, this country has experienced changes in professional football exposure over the past couple of years. Two years ago, the Alliance of American Football debuted in the spring of 2019 but quickly fell apart about a month after kicking off. Last year, the XFL was relaunched and played five weeks of its schedule. Unfortunately, the league had their season cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the XFL not expected to return until 2022, the IFL has distanced itself as the second-highest level of professional football in the United States in 2021.

IFL Commissioner, Todd Tryon, welcomed the Pirates to their new league in August 2020.

The IFL is set to begin its 13th season next month after playing just two official games last year due to the pandemic. The league’s first game comes on Friday, April 23rd, with the Pirates opening their season the following night. 2021 IFL Kickoff Weekend is scheduled for the weekend of May 14th. The league will conclude its regular season on Saturday, August 21st with playoffs to follow.

The IFL will consist of 12 teams this season, including the Pirates, who are one of six new teams joining the league. With the addition of the Pirates, the IFL has officially expanded nationally, with teams in the Northwest, Southwest, Midwest, and now Massachusetts in the Eastern region of the country. In 2022, two new teams, the Columbus Wild Dogs and Oakland Panthers are set to join the league. The San Diego Strike Force, who were a part of the IFL in 2019, are also set to return next year. The Pirates enter the IFL coming off two winning seasons in the NAL, where they began as a professional indoor football franchise. Their overall regular-season record to date is 19-11.

In regards to fans attending IFL games this season, the Pirates recently announced they will begin the season at 12 percent seating capacity when the organization plays its home opener on May 22nd at the DCU Center in Worcester, MA. Other IFL teams, including the Northern Arizona Wranglers and Frisco Fighters, expect to begin the season at 100 percent capacity.

The XFL, which originally launched in 2001 and played one season, returned last spring with eight teams. The league also designated another team, Team 9, to act as a practice squad filled with selected players for other XFL teams to utilize. Before the season began, the XFL Draft was held in October 2019 and hundreds of players were selected. Going into the event, the Pirates had 17 players selected to the draft pool, more than any other professional indoor football organization in the United States. As the Pirates head into the 2021 season in the IFL, they roster 11 players who saw action with XFL organizations in 2020.

After having their season cancelled in 2020, the XFL decided against playing in 2021 and is scheduled to return in early 2022. Before the pandemic hit, the XFL was averaging over 18,000 fans per game. Earlier this month, it was reported that talks of a merger between the CFL and XFL had surfaced.

The Jacksonville Jaguars, along with the Dallas Cowboys, had the largest seating capacities of the 2020 NFL season, as both franchises allowed 25 percent by season’s end.

The NFL stands alone as the strongest and most recognized professional football league. After completing a full season in 2020, including a successful Super Bowl LV, the NFL set the bar for how all sports leagues should operate within a pandemic. Strong social distancing and quarantine guidelines, along with frequent COVID-19 testing, were the keys that helped them to the finish line.

Even though fans were limited in NFL stadiums in 2020, the league was able to show growth in attendance throughout the season. In Week 1 of the 2020 NFL regular season, just two stadiums hosted fans. By the final week of the regular season, seven of the sixteen home stadiums had fans present. Throughout the season, stadiums that allowed fans had seating capacities ranging from less than 1 percent to 25 percent.

Both the XFL and IFL act as NFL affiliates for players to improve their skills, develop game tape at the professional level, and stay in game shape as they chase their dream to play in the NFL. The NFL knows the importance of success for these professional football leagues. Last year, quarterback Taylor Heinicke saw action with the XFL’s St. Louis BattleHawks. Heinicke went on to join the Washington Football Team of the NFL in December 2020 and started Washington’s playoff game in January 2021. The IFL has a terrific opportunity to bridge this type of talent to the NFL this year, being the second-highest level of professional football in 2021.

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 will be available soon 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