In a major announcement for minor league indoor football, and possibly a huge blow to the Arena Football League, the National Arena League announced four new expansion teams Thursday, that will take the field in 2018.
The four new cities that were granted NAL franchises, per the NAL Facebook page and website, are Richmond, Virginia; Boston, Massachusetts; Providence, Rhode Island; and Orlando, Florida.
It’s a big move that gives the NAL a major footprint in two of the northeast and New England’s biggest markets.
During the 2017 NAL season the league announced the Jersey Flight in Trenton, New Jersey would also be joining the league in 2018.
NAL played the 2017 season with 8 teams, and for the most part had a decently successful first season, outside of Dayton and Corpus Christi, both of who had major problems. Like Dayton playing all its games on the road, and Corpus Christi closing up shop with home games left on the schedule.
There is also one NAL team in Georgia currently for sale, and provided they find ownership, would give the league 11 teams for the 2018 season.
The current teams who played in 2017 are the High Country Grizzlies, Jacksonville Sharks, Columbus Lions, Lehigh Valley Steelhawks, Georgia Firebirds, and Monterrey Steel.
With 11 teams, that certainly leaves the door open for a 12th team, and looking at the way the teams are laid out geographically, it looks like the teams would be divided into North and South Divisions that would have six teams in each division.
Quickly, my guess at a North would be Boston, Providence, Lehigh Valley, Jersey, Richmond and High County. The south would then be Jacksonville, Columbus, Georgia, Monterrey, Orlando, and a TBD somewhere else in the south.
I have no idea where that 12th team might come from, some rumors have speculated Corpus Christi getting another shot, or perhaps another city in Texas, or maybe even a team in Mexico City so Monterrey has a travel partner and regional rival.
Perhaps in even bigger news, the announcement of these teams, particularly in Orlando and Boston, could be a huge blow to the Arena Football League’s expansion hopes. AFL, with just five teams this year, has been looking to expand to at least eight teams in 2018, and Boston and Orlando were rumored to be two of the cities they were eyeing.
With those two teams off the table, it brings up a lot of questions about where the AFL could turn to add teams, possibly Long Island? St. Louis? Nashville? Detroit? Columbus? Any of the other east to midwest teams they had before that had success at the gate?
Either way, if AFL was hoping to grab Boston and Orlando and shuffled their feet, then good on the NAL for being proactive and not sitting down to the supposed bigger league.