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Do Any Other Countries Play American Football (Besides the US)?

Many other countries play American football, although the skill level and lower interest in other countries prevent many of these leagues from being competitive with the NFL. The International Federation of American Football (IFAF) holds championships in several different categories and recognizes 120 independent countries that participate. 

Approximately 80 countries have football federations in American football. There are even more countries that are part of the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) with 120 independent countries participating in tournaments for both men, women, and teenagers including touch and tackle football. 

While many of these international leagues pale in comparison to the NFL or NCAA, there are a handful of competitive leagues including the Canadian Football League and the German Bundesliga. 

I’m David, and I’ve been following football since I was five and played quarterback through high school. While my career was torpedoed by a lack of arm strength and inability to sense the rush, I love following not just the NFL, but also the smaller niche leagues that are scattered throughout the world. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the more prominent countries and organizations that are working to spread American football across the globe. While nowhere near as popular internationally as other American sports such as basketball, interest in football is slowly growing and can be found throughout the world. 

Key Takeaways

  • Roughly 40 countries have their own organized leagues and championships. [1]
  • The International Federation of American Football was founded in 1998 and holds World Cup-style tournaments in several different categories for men and women.
  • Canada, Germany, and Japan have some of the most competitive leagues featuring multiple divisions and full postseason play including championship games.

International Federation of American Football

The first Federation of American Football was founded in 1896 in Canada, which already had a long history with the sport dating back to 1861. Japan was also an early adopter and came up with its own federation in 1936. A European Federation was formed in 1976, but it wasn’t until 1998 that the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) was founded. [2]

Today countries from Africa, the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Oceania are all represented with a total of 120 members as of 2022. [3]

The IFAF currently holds tournaments in five different categories: tackle for men and women, flag football for men and women, and an under-20 tackle division for men. While the United States is a member of the IFAF, specific rules prevent many Americans from being qualified for IFAF play in an attempt to level the playing field. Despite these restrictions, the U.S. has won the last three tackling men’s titles and all four of the women’s titles.  [4]

Delays and the global pandemic have prevented the men’s tackling tournament from being held since 2015. But the qualification cycle is currently being run with a championship tentatively scheduled for 2025. [5]

Members of the IFAF: [5]

EgyptCanadaJapanCzechiaNew Zealand
Ivory CoastChileJordanDenmarkNew Caledonia
KenyaColombiaKoreaFinlandPapua New Guinea
MoroccoEl SalvadorKuwaitFranceTahiti
South AfricaHaitiPhilippinesGreat Britain
ZimbabweMexicoHong KongIsrael
United StatesNetherlands


Top 3 Countries that Play American Football after the United States

While football still falls well behind sports such as soccer and basketball when it comes to global popularity, the sport is played at a reasonably high level in a few countries. The Canadian Football League is an obvious choice, but did you know that both Germany and Japan have a long tradition of competitive football too?


Canada is home to the second most competitive football league. The Canadian Football League (CFL) has nine teams and an 18-game schedule with the season taking place during the summer. [6]

The CFL season ends in the Grey Cup, the league’s version of the Super Bowl.

While similar to American football, the CFL has several rule changes that make it unique to traditional football. The CFL allows 12 players on the field, and the playing field is significantly larger, measuring 150 x 65 yards compared to 120 x 53 yards. Canadian teams are given just three downs to earn a first down compared to four, along with more subtle differences such as differences in fair catch rules, motion, and time between plays. [7]


With the most robust football league on the continent, Germany has had its own football association since 1982. [8]

Football in some form or another has been played in the country since 1898, but football in its modern form took place when the top German Football league was founded in 1963. Called the Bundesliga, the league has a rulebook similar to the NCAA and currently has 16 teams, with two additional leagues in a lower tier. [9]

Bayern Munich has been far and away the most successful club in the league with 30 titles, 21 more than their closest competitor, FC Nurnberg. 


Japan has been playing organized football in some form or fashion since 1934. [10]

Both professional, semi-professional, and amateur leagues are currently active, with each of them featuring its own bowl games and “Super Bowl-style” finale.

The highest league in Japan is the X-League. [11]

Like the German league, the rules are similar to the NCAA and include a full regular season and postseason tournament. The league concludes play with the “Rice Bowl” held in the Tokyo Dome. 

The growing popularity of football has led Japan to some international success. They’re the only men’s tackling team besides the United States to claim an IFAF championship, taking home the first two titles in 1999 and 2003. [12]


While no country in the world can come close to matching football’s popularity in the United States, the recent growth of the sport worldwide shows a willingness to embrace the sport. A big step will be the return of the IFAF Championship in 2025 which could help propel growth and interest since every continent is sure to be represented in some capacity.

I don’t think football will ever be able to emulate the international success of basketball or baseball due to the complexity of the sport, but it seems likely to me that it will grow in popularity as technology and streaming services make it easier and easier to access, learn, and teach the sport.


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