Here we go! My official preview of the 2017 women’s football season will take a look back at an eventful offseason in the sport and look ahead to another entertaining year of women’s gridiron action. Let’s get to it!

2017 Women’s Football Leagues Overview

Last season, I wrote that I would be covering seven women’s football leagues, up from four in 2015. Well, as fate would have it, I’m once again back down to covering just four women’s football leagues in 2017.

One of the seven leagues I had planned to cover in 2016 – the rebranded WPFL – never even got off the ground. In addition, two women’s football leagues went under this past offseason. The convolutedly-named and poorly publicized NMAFL-W folded up shop after two seasons of play in January, and four of their five teams – the Amarillo Lady Punishers, Colorado (Springs) Voodoo, Northwest Wolves, and Roswell Destroyers went down with the league.

Meanwhile, the LAFL – which featured four teams in its inaugural year in 2016 – has gone under after just one season of play. (Not only is the LAFL gone, but plans for an indoor sister league, the LIFL, look to have been scrapped as well.) Three of the LAFL’s four teams have escaped to other leagues, but it appears that the Cape Fear Thunder may be gone for good. Cape Fear celebrated their 12th season of play in 2016, but they had been overtaken locally by the Fayetteville Fierce.

And with that, there are four remaining women’s football leagues to cover for the 2017 season – the WFA, the IWFL, the USWFL, and the WXFL. But there have been major, major developments in all four this offseason. Let’s take them each by turn.

The Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) – 2017 Preview

In the offseason of 2010-2011, ten of the top teams in the sport (collectively called the “Supergroup”) left the IWFL – then the top league in women’s football – and joined the WFA, then the #2 league in the sport. This simultaneous defection of ten of the top teams in women’s football vaulted the WFA from #2 status in the sport to being the recognized top league in women’s football, a position they have held to this day.

It would be almost impossible for the WFA to ever have a better offseason than that, given the circumstances. But if the WFA could ever have an offseason to rival that one, the 2016-2017 offseason would be it. Calling the WFA’s offseason this year “incredible” would frankly be underselling it.

The WFA exploded this offseason, adding 27 new teams to its lineup from last year. Here are the new arrivals in the WFA for 2017:

Expansion teams (8): Central Florida Shine, Franklin Nightmare, Hampton Roads Lady Gators, Kern County Crusaders, La Muerte De Las Cruces, North Florida Pumas, South Carolina Smash, and Utah Wildkats

Returning from 2015 (4): Arkansas Wildcats, Miami Fury, Minnesota Machine, and San Diego Surge

Joining from IWFL (10): Baltimore Nighthawks, Carolina Phoenix, Madison Blaze, Maine Mayhem, Minnesota Vixen, Montreal Blitz, New York Knockout, New York Sharks, Rocky Mountain Thunderkatz, and Tennessee Train

Joining from USWFL (3): Cincinnati Sizzle, Connecticut Hawks, and New England Nightmare

Joining from LAFL (1): Music City Mizfits

Joining from NMAFL-W (1): Santa Fe Dukes.

In a word…wowzers.

Just as remarkably, the WFA lost only two of the teams that finished out the year with them in 2016 – the Alabama Fire, which folded after one season, and the Fayetteville Fierce, who left for the USWFL. That means the WFA, which ended the 2016 season with 42 teams under its umbrella, now boasts 67 teams for the 2017 season.

The record for the most teams competing in one women’s football league in a single season is 59, the number of teams that competed in the WFA in 2011, the year after the “Supergroup” arrived. It’s possible that a couple of these 67 teams may not make it to launch, but barring an unforeseen disaster, the Women’s Football Alliance is poised in 2017 to host the greatest number of women’s football teams of any league in any season…ever.

And it’s not just the quantity of teams that is impressive…it’s the quality. Expansion teams are always exciting, and I’m happy to give a warm welcome to the four teams reactivating in 2017, most notably the powerhouse San Diego Surge. Rest assured, you were missed.

But the acquisitions from the other leagues is what makes the 2017 WFA season so exciting. Eleven teams defected from the IWFL and joined the WFA, and these weren’t just any ten teams. The two longest-running franchises in the sport, the New York Sharks and Minnesota Vixen, are now in the WFA (or back in it, in the case of New York). Carolina, Madison, and Montreal have been very strong teams over the years, contending for titles and bowl championships in the IWFL.

What’s even more notable about these ten newcomers from the IWFL is that many of them were bedrock teams in their former league. The Nighthawks, Phoenix, Vixen, Blitz, and Mayhem (with their predecessor team, the Maine Rebels) all had almost a decade’s worth of history or more in the IWFL. The fact that they have joined the WFA to make it the largest women’s football league in the history of this sport is very, very exciting indeed.

We’ll talk about what all this means for the IWFL later, but for now, let me say that this is an enormously huge thing for women’s football. While I’m not a big one-league proponent, I wrote recently about the importance of every team in women’s football “rowing the same boat”. And I mentioned that IWFL team owners had the power in their hands to create the kind of unity that this sport has never seen before. It appears that this offseason, many of those owners finally flexed that power. That’s unbelievably huge for women’s football.

The WFA also had five new arrivals from regional leagues, picking up three of the best teams from the USWFL, including its reigning league champion (Cincinnati) and a long-time fixture in the New England Nightmare. To top it off, the WFA scooped up the LAFL champion Music City Mizfits and the Santa Fe Dukes, the only team to survive the collapse of the NMAFL-W.

These acquisitions represent monumental growth for the WFA, but now, a word of caution. I believe we are closer to providing a unified front in women’s football than ever before in the sport’s history, but this is a critical juncture. 27 newcomers is a LOT of new blood, and it is vitally important that the WFA work to assimilate them into the league. Now that these teams have joined the WFA, it’s up to the WFA to provide them with the kind of overall experience that makes them want to stay.

For instance, I can’t help but notice that the Madison Blaze, New York Sharks, and Montreal Blitz all joined the WFA only when continuing to play in the IWFL was clearly no longer geographically feasible. In other words, it was possibly more a matter of necessity than a desire to align itself with the Women’s Football Alliance. That’s not a slight on those three teams at all, nor does it take away from the fact that the WFA stands to hugely benefit from their additions to the league.

But now that these teams are in the WFA, it is imperative that the league show them the benefits of competing in the biggest league in women’s football. I have no doubt that the IWFL will probably try to add a bunch of expansion teams over the next few years and attempt to lure some of these IWFL defectors back. After all, the IWFL website still lists Montreal, Madison, and the Sharks as “inactive” members (which is absurd and insulting…playing in the WFA can’t be confused with inactivity).

At some point in the near future, the IWFL will undoubtedly approach these teams and ask them to leave the WFA and once again fracture the strength of women’s football across two league platforms. It is incumbent upon the WFA to give these teams ample reason to respond to the IWFL with a simple, “Nah, I’m good.” The WFA should always be working to retain all of its member teams by providing them with the best league experience in women’s football, but it’s even more of a priority with these newcomers who may be getting their first taste of what it’s like to work with other teams in the WFA. Managing 67 teams with 67 different (and often conflicting) visions and priorities will present a huge challenge unlike any that has ever been encountered before in the history of women’s football, so I hope the WFA is up to the task.

With that note of caution out of the way…man, this is very, very exciting. This is shaping up to be one of the greatest seasons put forward by any league in women’s football history. To have the combined power and brand names of all 67 of these teams working toward the same goal…you can’t help but get fired up about that.

The Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) – 2017 Tiers

It goes without saying that the tier system the WFA debuted last season was a rousing success, and I think it’s one of the main reasons behind the league’s explosive growth this offseason. WFA teams of all sizes may play against (and get exposure to) teams that are a little more advanced during the regular season, which is a good thing for their growth. It gives smaller teams a chance to see up close what they should be aspiring toward, while assuring the bigger teams that they will be able to fill out a full eight-game schedule.

But when it’s time for the postseason, all teams are squaring off directly against their peers. Every team can compete for a championship against teams at the same level of development, giving everyone a realistic title to shoot for. The tier system truly is a beautiful thing.

One of the things I disliked about the WFA’s tier system last year, however, was that it took too long to announce who was in what tier. It wasn’t until after the regular season had started that we knew who was playing in what tier. Since it was the first year of the tier system, I gave the league a pass, but it was something I said they needed to improve upon going forward.

Want to know why the WFA is the best league in women’s football? Precisely for this reason: any time I note, “This is something the league needs to improve upon,” the league quite often does exactly that. It’s that simple. When I notice a problem in how the league operates, lo and behold, the league itself frequently gets it cleaned up in short order. You can’t ask for much more from a women’s football league than that.

Anyway, I had hoped the WFA would formalize their tiers much earlier in 2017 and have them ready before the season started. In stellar fashion, that’s exactly what the league has done. These are still subject to change, in that one or two teams may shift or move around in the next couple weeks. But here is the tentative list of teams in WFA1 for the 2017 season:

Eastern Conference
Atlanta Phoenix
Boston Renegades
Chicago Force
Cleveland Fusion
D.C. Divas
Pittsburgh Passion

Western Conference
Arlington Impact
Central Cal War Angels
Dallas Elite
Kansas City Titans
Los Angeles Warriors (were Pacific Warriors)
Minnesota Vixen
Portland Fighting Shockwave
San Diego Surge
Seattle Majestics

One new addition to WFA1 is, naturally, the San Diego Surge, who are back from hiatus. The other major addition to the top tier are the Minnesota Vixen, the reigning IWFL Eastern Conference champions.

I love the 15 teams in WFA1. They are a solid representation of the very best teams women’s football has to offer. Every single one of these teams deserves to play at the premier level of competition in the sport.

Moving along to WFA2, this tier has 19 teams in the division. And believe me, the competition among the teams in WFA2 is going to be absolutely terrific. Just check out some of the names in WFA2 this season:

Eastern Conference
Baltimore Nighthawks
Carolina Phoenix
Columbus Comets
Detroit Dark Angels
Indy Crash
Jacksonville Dixie Blues
Miami Fury
Montreal Blitz
New York Sharks
North Florida Pumas
Philadelphia Phantomz
Tampa Bay Inferno
West Michigan Mayhem

Western Conference
Everett Reign
Madison Blaze
Mile High Blaze
Sin City Trojans
St. Louis Slam
Tacoma Trauma

I assume the WFA may try to split up each conference into two divisions somehow. But just look at the names in that league! What a great collection of women’s football teams there. And I have no idea who will win the WFA2 championship among that group…I would honestly say that at least half of the teams on that list might be a legitimate contender to take it all. The WFA2 postseason just might turn out to be the most compelling playoff in women’s football in 2017.

Last but not least, let’s take a look at WFA3. While WFA3 was just a small 11-team league in its debut season in 2016, one year later, it has swelled its ranks to 33 teams! Here are the 33 teams battling for the WFA3 crown in 2017:

Eastern Conference
Central Florida Shine
Cincinnati Sizzle
Connecticut Hawks
Daytona Waverunners
Derby City Dynamite
Flint City Riveters
Franklin Nightmare
Hampton Roads Lady Gators
Huntsville Tigers
Keystone Assault
Maine Mayhem
Music City Mizfits
New England Nightmare
New York Knockout
Orlando Anarchy
Richmond Black Widows
South Carolina Smash
Tennessee Train
Toledo Reign

Western Conference
Acadiana Zydeco
Arkansas Wildcats
Austin Outlaws
Houston Power
Inland Empire Ravens (were West Coast Lightning)
Kern County Crusaders
La Muerte De Las Cruces
Minnesota Machine
Rocky Mountain Thunderkatz
Santa Fe Dukes
Southern Oregon Lady Renegades
Utah Blitz
Utah Wildkats
Ventura County Wolfpack

Note that Derby City, Houston, Huntsville, Toledo, and the artists formerly known as the West Coast Lightning – the Inland Empire Ravens – are all dropping down from WFA2 to WFA3 this season.

Man! This is another great collection of teams. I mean, who would have thought…over thirty teams competing for the WFA3 national title?

Get excited, people…the 2017 WFA season is going to be a wonder to behold.

The Independent Women’s Football League (IWFL) – 2017 Preview

By this point, everyone who has read my stuff knows how I feel about Kezia Disney, Laurie Frederick, and the way they run the IWFL. Each of the last three years, the IWFL has changed the rules regarding their playoff structure late in the regular season to the benefit of some teams and to the detriment of others. The IWFL’s reputation for favoritism and dishing out rewards for league loyalty has hit almost absurd levels at this point.

But the fiasco the IWFL created with their playoff system last year topped them all. They actually cut the regular season short by a week and cancelled a game with legitimate playoff implications. Instead, the league handed a playoff berth and a division title to the Austin Yellow Jackets (who were atop the league standings with a week to go) and cancelled their game against the Houston Wildcats, who were only a game behind them in the standings.

The IWFL denied Houston an opportunity to even their record against Austin and potentially play their way into the playoffs. The IWFL then doubled down on their insanity, kicking the Houston Wildcats out of the league after they loudly protested the decision.

That disaster just shows how indiscriminately Frederick and Disney run their league. The fact that they’ve been running a women’s football league for 17 years and still have these kinds of problems leads only to one conclusion: they flat out just don’t care. They have no interest in improving their product by running things “the right way”…they’re going to run it darn well however they please and they aren’t interested in listening to reason. It’s a waste of time even trying to reason with them.

On a related note, I’ve had people ask me if I have a reaction to this article, in which the IWFL is apparently being sued by a transgender player after being banned by the league. I will say that I got a kick out of this line: “A call to the league, seeking comment for this story, went unreturned.” You don’t say?

Transgender athletes in women’s football is a very, very complex topic worthy of a commentary all its own, but let me put it this way: given the IWFL’s long history of discrimination against men, I’m not surprised that this prejudice also extends to those who used to be or desire to be one. What else would you expect from the league “by women football players for women football players”?

I would actually be fine with the IWFL meandering along as the #2 league in women’s football if they accepted that role, understanding that’s what they are and that’s what they have been for seven years running now. But Frederick and Disney will never, ever accept that this is what they’ve been reduced to. Instead, the IWFL continues to make statements like, “The IWFL is the standard bearer for quality in the sport of women’s tackle football.” That’s positively laughable.

But what’s not funny is the fact that the WFA and IWFL both promoting themselves as the top league in women’s football creates brand confusion in the minds of casual sports fans. Many fans, hearing about women’s football for the first time, don’t know what to believe…so they’ll just take the first thing they hear as gospel. That’s why the IWFL spreading such “misinformation” – let’s call those statements that, so that I don’t have to call them outright lies – is so damaging to the sport as a whole.

Yet last year’s playoff fiasco may have finally been the straw that broke the camel’s back; I think it opened the eyes of many, who now see just how disinterested Disney and Frederick are in running their league in a professional way. I heard rumors late last season of mass defections out of the IWFL, but I often dismiss such rumors, because, well, talk is cheap. In this case, those rumors turned out to be spot on.

The IWFL concluded the 2016 season with 32 teams…17 of those 32 teams are no longer with the league. Let me rephrase: over half of the teams in the IWFL in 2016 are no longer with the league in 2017. That’s astounding.

Let’s start with the new additions to the IWFL in 2017…this will be quick.

Expansion teams (2): Rogue Valley Elements and Tampa Reign

Returning from 2015 (1): South Texas Lady Crushers (WFA).

Note the IWFL didn’t pick up a single team this offseason from another league, unless you count the Lady Crushers, who are coming off of a one-year hiatus. Meanwhile, here are the seventeen teams that departed the IWFL this offseason:

Folded (4): Bakersfield Bombers, Nebraska Stampede, Philadelphia Firebirds, and Southern Tier Valkyrie

Left for WFA (10): Baltimore Nighthawks, Carolina Phoenix, Madison Blaze, Maine Mayhem, Minnesota Vixen, Montreal Blitz, New York Knockout, New York Sharks, Rocky Mountain Thunderkatz, and Tennessee Train

Left for USWFL (3): Detroit Pride, Houston Wildcats, and Washington Prodigy.

That leaves just 18 teams in the IWFL for the 2017 season. This is the smallest number of teams the IWFL has had since 2002, when the league had only 16 teams. The 18 teams competing in the IWFL in 2017 are:

Pacific Conference
Carson Bobcats (of Los Angeles)
Nevada Storm
North County Stars
Phoenix Phantomz
Rogue Valley Elements
Sacramento Sirens
Utah Falconz

Central Conference
Albuquerque Avengers
Austin Yellow Jackets
Colorado Freeze
Houston Energy
Iowa Crush
San Antonio Regulators
South Texas Lady Crushers
Tulsa Threat

Marooned Conference
Carolina Queens
Knoxville Lightning
Tampa Reign

Okay, so the Marooned Conference is my own invention. The IWFL’s entire Eastern Conference from 2016 has vanished from the league with the exception of the Knoxville Lightning, Carolina Queens, and Iowa Crush. Even though every other team in their division departed for the WFA, the Iowa Crush decided to remain in the IWFL and become a geographically-strained member of the IWFL’s Central Conference.

The Carolina Queens and Knoxville Lightning, on the other hand, were paired up with the expansion Tampa Reign. Despite being completely isolated from every other team in the league, these three are apparently going to try to complete an eight-game schedule, largely against each other (with help from the occasional Central Conference opponent). How they’re going to factor in the IWFL’s playoff structure, if at all, is anyone’s guess.

The Future of the IWFL

I’m going to cut to the chase here: Numerous people around the sport have been making appeals for years for a merger between the WFA and the IWFL. The whittling away of the IWFL has made it more apparent than ever who are the sticking points to these widely-held dreams of a unified league.

There are only 18 teams currently in the IWFL. Some of them are trapped in the IWFL for one reason or another: I wrote an entire article on the Utah Falconz and the challenges they face being re-admitted to the WFA, and there are other great teams like Carson, North County, Rogue Valley, Austin, Houston, Colorado, and Tampa who may (or may not) face hurdles thanks to the 50-mile guideline in the WFA.

But make no mistake: the teams that are voluntarily in the IWFL at this point are the ones standing in the way of unity in women’s football. If you’ve ever wondered why women’s football can’t present a united front to the outside sports world, look no further than the teams voluntarily remaining in the IWFL to see what is holding back this sport.

As I noted before, the WFA-IWFL feud? It’s over. It’s done. Both the WFA and IWFL present themselves as the top league in women’s football, but come on…the WFA has 67 teams, the IWFL has 18. I mean, what more would it take for the fair-minded folks still remaining in the IWFL to admit that their league’s claim as “the standard bearer for quality in the sport of women’s tackle football” is a crock? That calling their league champion the “World Champions” is just absurd?

Don’t the reasonable team owners in the IWFL wince when the IWFL bills itself as “the most stable and respected women’s pro-tackle football league in the world,” especially when the “stable” IWFL just lost over half of their members from last season? How are they not embarrassed by the state and statements of their league at this point?

Look at a team like, say, the Carolina Queens. They’d be a perfect, natural fit in either WFA3 or the USWFL. In WFA3, they’d be rejoined with their old foes in the Carolina Phoenix, Baltimore Nighthawks, and Keystone Assault. They’d be able to assume new rivalries with the Richmond Black Widows and South Carolina Smash. And they’d be a legitimate contender for WFA3 honors, just as they won all those IWFL “Affiliate Bowls” a few years back.

However, if they couldn’t or didn’t want to go in that direction, the USWFL would be a perfect landing spot for them. They could play teams like the Baltimore Burn and Washington Prodigy and could even establish a rivalry with the nearby Fayetteville Fierce. They’d be a solid addition to that league as well.

But no, the Carolina Queens instead have chosen to stay in the IWFL in 2017 and fly out to Tampa, Knoxville, and Austin, Texas, of all places. They’re going to ring up huge costs traveling halfway across the country…why, exactly?

The Carolina Queens aren’t the only ones making that baffling choice. The Knoxville Lightning would be a perfect fit for the USWFL, which has three other Tennessee teams in the league already! And the Iowa Crush would rather travel to Colorado, Tulsa, or Texas than join literally the rest of their division last year in WFA2.

Perhaps there’s a valid reason behind the scenes why they are so adamant about remaining in the IWFL. I mean, maybe they already paid their league dues before they knew how bad the situation had gotten and they aren’t in a position to double up, although you’d think that joining a league with much less travel would more than make up for it. I don’t know.

But if these teams are still in the IWFL out of some misplaced loyalty to Frederick and Disney, at this point they need to take a good look in the mirror and understand that they’re the reason for the division that exists in women’s football. They’re the reason we don’t have unity in the sport. They are what is holding women’s football back, because they’re helping Frederick and Disney hold the sport back.

I know that cuts to the quick, but there really isn’t any other conclusion to draw. They’re propping up an amateurishly run, 18-team league that bills itself as the “standard bearer” for the sport, while a 67-team league is left to deal with the brand confusion created by a rival that was left in the dust seven years ago. The teams that are still in the IWFL of their own volition after all this time are sowing discord in the sport by standing in the way of real unification. They’ve outed themselves as the obstruction to real progress in the sport.

And that’s too bad, because I want to be clear on this…I don’t think the folks running these teams are bad people or that they don’t love women’s football. Far from it. Anyone who invests this much time and energy into women’s football must love the sport. But I think they’re letting their personal allegiances to Frederick and Disney cloud their view of the bigger picture here, and I hope they come to their senses soon.

As for Utah, Carson, North County, Rogue Valley, Austin, Houston, Colorado, Tampa, and any other team that might be afraid that the WFA or USWFL would not be receptive to them for one reason or another, I’ll repeat what I said in my article on the Utah Falconz. I hope these teams get together next offseason and approach the WFA as a block, requesting a one-time waiver for all of them of any 50-mile rule that may be causing an issue. Ask the league to accept all of them as a group and work them into the WFA’s tier system alongside existing teams in their regions.

I’m not a fan of how the IWFL is run, but I’ve never been one to predict its demise. Any league that has been around for 17 years has survived a number of challenges, obviously. The IWFL might add a few new expansion teams next year, pick up a couple of teams from other leagues, and resume business as usual in 2018.

Still, the IWFL will go forward with just 18 teams in 2017, the fewest member teams they have had since they had 16 in their first full season in 2002. I say again, the IWFL will feature the smallest number of teams in 2017 that the league has had in the last 15 years. And if the IWFL has another offseason next year as disastrous as this past one…well, we might finally have the WFA-IWFL merger people have been awaiting for years now.

I for one think that would be a fantastic thing for the sport. Now it’s up to the few folks still keeping the lights on in the IWFL to come together and decide it’s time to truly unify women’s football.

The United States Women’s Football League (USWFL) – 2017 Preview

The USWFL has traveled an interesting road under Mary Butler’s leadership. She took over for her first full season in 2015, and the league showed promise with ten teams that year. That offseason, the league rebranded from the WSFL to the USWFL, but the 2016 season was in some ways a step back, as the league shrank to just seven member clubs.

In 2017, the USWFL appears to be back with a vengeance, with 14 teams planned for this year. Three of the USWFL’s seven teams from last year – the Cincinnati Sizzle, Connecticut Hawks, and New England Nightmare – did leave for the WFA, and the Tennessee Legacy are apparently no longer in the league. However, the USWFL has been bolstered by the arrival of 11 newcomers to join the three holdovers from 2016.

Expansion teams (3): Indiana Prime, Tennessee Diamondbacks, and Texarkana Lions

Returning from 2015 (2): Baltimore Burn and New Orleans Krewe (IWFL)

Joining from IWFL (3): Detroit Pride, Houston Wildcats, and Washington Prodigy

Joining from LAFL (2): Arkansas Xtra and Tri-Cities Thunder

Joining from WFA (1): Fayetteville Fierce.

With 14 teams, the league is poised to have the deepest roster of teams that the WSFL/USWFL has ever had since being founded in 2010. In other words, the eighth season of this league could be its best yet.

The 14 teams are split across three divisions:

Central Division
Fayetteville Fierce
Southern Indiana Storm
Tennessee Diamondbacks
Tri-Cities Thunder
West Virginia Wildfire

Mid-Atlantic Division
Baltimore Burn
Detroit Pride
Erie Illusion
Indiana Prime
Washington Prodigy

Southwest Division
Arkansas Xtra
Houston Wildcats
New Orleans Krewe
Texarkana Lions

Also, the Atlanta Heartbreakers are floating around and may be trying to make a comeback…we’ll have to wait and see on that. Meanwhile, no word on how the USWFL might organize their playoff structure to account for three divisions. For that matter, I don’t have definitive word on how any of the WFA, IWFL, or USWFL will structure their playoffs…but I’ll pass that word along once I have it.

The USWFL’s Role in Women’s Football

I have talked about why a WFA-IWFL merger would serve the sport well, but that might have led some to wonder how I feel about the USWFL. Unlike the IWFL, I actually feel the USWFL serves a vital and important role in women’s football.

The key difference is that, unlike the IWFL, the USWFL has never billed itself as the top league in women’s football. Yes, the USWFL tries to claim that it looks out for its member teams better than the other leagues do, which is understandable. But the USWFL has never actually tried to suggest that it is the highest level of women’s football, to my knowledge.

For instance, unlike the IWFL, no one has ever realistically suggested that the champions of the WFA and USWFL should battle for supremacy in the sport. Even folks in the USWFL don’t support that. The USWFL’s mission – and it’s a good one – is geared toward teams in smaller markets and with limited rosters.

The WFA has three levels of play: WFA1, which includes the top teams in the sport; WFA2, which contains a number of very competitive, entertaining mid-level teams; and WFA3, which is geared toward expansion teams and teams with smaller rosters. At first glance, WFA3 and the USWFL might appear to have roughly the same teams in mind, and to be sure, there is some overlap there.

However, WFA3 does have a few baseline rules. To be admitted into WFA3, teams need to be willing to accept a full eight-game schedule and play 11-player football. WFA3 does not accept “affiliate teams” who want to play a partial schedule, and it does not offer eight-player football, for example.

This makes a lot of sense for the WFA. They don’t want teams playing either a partial schedule or sub-11 football to do so under the WFA’s brand. It’s a hard line they have drawn, and it’s perfectly understandable why they would adhere to that standard for their member teams.

With that said, there is certainly room in this sport for teams in smaller markets, with smaller rosters, or who are just starting out that need to rely on either partial schedules and eight-player football. Some teams just aren’t able to commit to an eight-game schedule…but they could commit to four. Some teams don’t have enough players to comfortably play 11-player football…but they could do eights. It’s important for them to have an outlet to do so, but it’s justifiable if the WFA, given everything else they have to juggle, doesn’t want to commit the kind of time and energy it would take to be that outlet.

This is where the USWFL comes into play. The USWFL can cater to a number of WFA3-caliber teams; in fact, one of the main selling points of the USWFL is that it is a WFA3-type league without what the USWFL would consider the distraction of WFA1 and WFA2. The USWFL can create a league where WFA3-caliber teams get to be the stars of the show without having the public attention sucked away by two higher divisions, which would understandably get the lion’s share of any league’s time and resources.

Beyond that, the USWFL can also cater to teams that are only ready to play partial schedules or that are more comfortable playing eight-player football. The USWFL made a little noise in the offseason about resurrecting the old W8FL, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the league made moves toward either starting a new eights league or at least incorporating eights under the USWFL’s umbrella somehow.

The bottom line is that the USWFL serves a useful role in women’s football, and I see no reason why the WFA and USWFL couldn’t coexist successfully and even cooperate on joint initiatives in many cases. The WFA and USWFL are both trying to grow women’s football, but their missions are unique enough that they could work together in harmony for mutual success.

The Women’s Xtreme Football League (WXFL) – 2017 Preview

In case you missed it, the 2017 women’s football season is already underway! The WXFL, which always seems to start much earlier than other women’s football leagues, has already kicked off their third season of play in 2017.

The WXFL will feature four teams this year, down from five last season. (It appears that the Northern Oklahoma Lady Xtreme have folded.) That leaves the WXFL with the reigning champion Oklahoma City Lady Force, the Kansas Lady Cougars, the Enid Lady Enforcers, and the Kansas City Storm.

Here are the results from the first two weeks of WXFL action:

March 4, 2017 – Enid Lady Enforcers 40, @Kansas City Storm 0
March 11, 2017 – Oklahoma City Lady Force 22, @Enid Lady Enforcers 0

For the full WXFL schedule, visit here. After the collapse last offseason of two regional leagues (the NMAFL-W and LAFL) and a third planned league (the WPFL), it’s nice to see that the WXFL is still alive and kicking.

With 67 teams planned for the WFA, 18 for the IWFL, 14 for the USWFL, and four in the WXFL, over 100 women’s football teams are planning to take the field in 2017. Best of luck to each and every one of them!

Be Sociable, Share!