How Many Countries Play American Football: Complete Guide

How Many Countries Play American Football

American football is primarily played in the United States and, to a lesser extent, in Canada. While there are leagues and enthusiasts of American football in other countries, it is not as widely played or followed as sports like soccer, basketball, or rugby. In recent years, there has been some growth in interest and participation in American football in countries outside North America, but it is still a minority sport in most nations. The exact number of countries where American football is played can vary, but it is safe to say that it is not a globally widespread sport like soccer or cricket. Read about How Old Do You Have to Be to Play Football

American Football
American Football

Historical Context

The Origins of American Football

To understand the global presence of American football, we must first delve into its history. American football, as we know it today, developed from rugby and soccer. Walter Camp, often referred to as the “Father of American Football,” played a pivotal role in shaping the sport’s rules in the late 19th century. The sport gained popularity in American colleges and soon became a staple in the American sports landscape.

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Early International Encounters

American football’s first foray beyond U.S. borders took place in Canada, where the sport found a receptive audience. Canadian football, although similar to its American counterpart, has its distinct set of rules and a separate professional league, the Canadian Football League (CFL). Discover about What is a PBU in Football

The Growth of American Football Worldwide

The Role of American Football in Global Sports

American football’s global appeal is undoubtedly influenced by its American cultural significance. The sport is often featured in popular American movies and television shows, creating international curiosity. The Super Bowl, the NFL’s championship game, is one of the most-watched sporting events worldwide, further promoting the sport’s global visibility.

Girls Playing Football
Girls Playing Football

Key International Organizations

Several international organizations play a pivotal role in spreading American football across the globe. The International Federation of American Football (IFAF) serves as the governing body for the sport outside of North America. IFAF facilitates international competitions, fosters development programs, and sets the rules and regulations for the game worldwide.

Countries Playing American Football

North America: The Heart of American Football

Unsurprisingly, the United States and Canada are the epicenters of American football. The NFL and CFL, respectively, are the most prestigious professional leagues in the world. College football in the U.S. also enjoys immense popularity, with annual events like the Rose Bowl and the College Football Playoff captivating fans.

Europe: American Football on the Rise

Europe has seen substantial growth in American football participation. Countries like Germany, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom have thriving American football leagues and national teams that compete on the international stage. The European continent has also hosted prestigious tournaments, such as the IFAF European Championships.

Asia: Emerging American Football Enthusiasts

Asian countries, including Japan, South Korea, and China, have embraced American football. Japan’s college football scene is highly competitive, and the country has produced some notable NFL players. In China, American football is gaining traction, with the NFL actively promoting the sport’s growth.

South America: Passion for American Football

South America boasts a growing American football community, with countries like Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina leading the way. The sport is particularly popular in Mexico, where the Liga de Fútbol Americano Profesional (LFA) provides a platform for aspiring players.

Africa: American Football’s Progress

While American football is still in its infancy in Africa, there are promising signs of growth. Countries like Nigeria and South Africa have burgeoning American football communities, driven by passionate players and enthusiasts.

Challenges and Obstacles

Cultural Barriers

One of the primary challenges American football faces in its global expansion is cultural resistance. In many countries, football (soccer) reigns supreme, making it difficult for American football to break through.

Lack of Infrastructure

American football’s growth often hinges on the availability of proper facilities and coaching. Developing nations may struggle to provide the necessary resources for the sport to thrive.

Competition with Established Sports

In many countries, American football competes with well-established sports like soccer, rugby, and cricket. Convincing young athletes to choose American football over these traditional options can be a tough sell.

American Football in the Olympics

American Football’s Olympic History

American football was once an Olympic sport, debuting at the 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis, Missouri. However, it was only featured as a demonstration sport and has not been part of the regular Olympic program.

The Road to Olympic Inclusion

Efforts to include American football in the Olympics continue. The sport’s international governing bodies, along with the NFL, are actively working towards achieving this goal. The Olympics could provide a significant boost to American football’s global expansion.


American football is no longer confined to the United States and Canada. It has found a place in the hearts of enthusiasts worldwide, with numerous countries actively participating and promoting the sport. While challenges remain, the passion for American football and the efforts of international organizations offer hope for continued growth. The dream of American football becoming an Olympic sport may not be far-fetched, further solidifying its status as a global phenomenon. As the sport continues to evolve, it’s clear that American football’s reach extends far beyond its American origins, making it a truly international game.


Q. How many countries play American football?

A. The exact number of countries that play American football can vary over time, but as of my last knowledge update in September 2021, American football was actively played and organized in over 80 countries worldwide.

Q. Is American football only popular in the United States?

A. No, American football is not limited to the United States. While it is most popular in the U.S. and Canada, the sport has gained popularity in many other countries, including those in Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa.

Q. Which countries have the most developed American football leagues outside of North America?

A. Some countries with well-developed American football leagues and national teams include Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Mexico, and Brazil. These nations have established leagues and active participation in international competitions.

Q. Are there any international tournaments for American football?

A. Yes, there are international tournaments and competitions for American football. The International Federation of American Football (IFAF) organizes events like the IFAF World Championship and regional championships to promote the sport on a global scale.

Q. What is the role of the International Federation of American Football (IFAF)?

A. The IFAF serves as the international governing body for American football outside of North America. It is responsible for organizing international competitions, setting rules and regulations, and supporting the development of the sport worldwide.


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