American Football

American football, or football for short, is the most popular US sport. We explain everything you need to know about the exciting tactical game "Made in the USA"!

History of American Football

The most popular US sport, American Football, has its origins in the sports of rugby and soccer. The first officially played American Football game is considered to be the match between the two college teams, Rutgers and Princeton, on November 6th, 1869.

For several years, college football games were played under the rules of the host university until representatives from Yale, Columbia, Princeton, and Rutgers established a uniform set of rules in 1873. In the following decades, American Football was synonymous with college football and was organized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

American Football players in action

In 1920, the National Football League (NFL) was founded, and American football became more and more professional. The sport received a major boost in popularity after the 1958 NFL championship game between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants. The match, which is still called the "Greatest Game Ever Played," was watched by millions of American TV viewers.

In 1960, the American Football League (AFL) was created, and for a decade, it competed with the NFL. The AFL brought several innovations to professional American Football, such as two-point conversions through passes or runs after touchdowns. In the late 1960s, the owners of the NFL and AFL agreed to hold a world championship match every year played between the champions of the two leagues.

In 1970, the two leagues merged, retaining the NFL name and logo. The final match became the Superbowl, which is to this day the most important sporting event in the United States.

American Football: the basics

American Football is an exciting but also complex sport. To be able to follow a match, you should know some basics.

The field

The American Football field is 120 yards (109.73 m) long and 53 yards (48.46 m) wide, i.e., it is slightly smaller than a soccer field. Also called "gridiron," the field is divided into twelve equal sections, each ten yards long. However, only 100 yards are used as the actual playing area. The ten yards at the ends of the field are the end zones.

The American Football field is limited by the sidelines and the end lines, which do not count as part of the actual playing area. A player who crosses or touches them is therefore out of bounds. Furthermore, there are two parallel rows of "hash marks" in the longitudinal direction, which correspond to one-yard subdivisions. They serve for the correct placement of the football: if a move is finished outside the allowed area, the next move starts on the nearest hash mark.

Stadium with American Football field

In each end zone, there is a goal whose shape resembles an oversized tuning fork. Its crossbar is placed 3.05 m above the ground. In professional American Football leagues, the two vertical bars are 5.64 m apart. In lower divisions, the distance is 7.11 m.

The team

American Football teams consist of a total of 53 players, who in turn are divided into special teams. Thus, for each team, 19 players are assigned to the offense, 19 players to the defense, and 15 players to the special teams. They can be substituted in and out depending on the game situation. At any time, only eleven players per team are allowed on the field. The American Football positions are called:

  • Offense: Quarterback, Runningback, Fullback, Tight End, Wide Receiver, Tackle, Guard, Center
  • Defense: Defensive Tackle, Defensive End, Linebacker, Cornerback, Strong Safety, Free Safety
  • Special Teams: Kicker, Punter, Long Snapper, Holder, Kick Returner, Punt Returner, Jammer, Upback, Gunner

The coaches

American football teams are usually supervised by more than one coach. A common NFL coaching staff consists of the following members:

Head Coach

The head coach is mainly responsible for the team. He is the most recognizable face on the bench and receives the most recognition for wins, but is also the first to be held accountable in the event of defeats. Most head coaches have more than 20 years of playing and coaching experience.

Defensive Coordinator

The Defense Coordinator is responsible specifically for the players of the defense. He decides which defensive plans should be pursued. He usually prepares his defense specifically for the upcoming opponent in the next match.

Offensive Coordinator

The Offense Coordinator is responsible for the offensive players of his team. He develops the offensive game plan for the upcoming match. Thus, he determines which moves could be successful against the upcoming opponent and prepares the offense specifically for them.

Special Teams Coach

The Special Teams Coach oversees the kickers, the punters, the kick return team, the field goal protection team, and the punt return team. He usually coaches the younger players because many Special Teams players are substitutes and reserves whose careers are just beginning.

Other assistant coaches

A typical NFL team has a total of 15 assistant coaches on average. These are coaches who specifically take care of players at certain positions, such as the quarterback coach, offensive line coach, defensive line coach, linebacker coach, etc. In addition, the NFL team is supported by several strength coaches and conditioning coaches.

The football

The ball used in American Football is not round but has the shape of an ellipse with pointed ends. Its outer skin is composed of four brown pieces of leather, rubber, or plastic. The National Football League prescribes the use of a football made of genuine leather. In addition, the NFL balls must be of one color.

The official dimensions of an American Football are:

  • Weight: between 396.9 g and 425.2 g
  • Length: between 27.5 cm and 29 cm
  • Longitudinal circumference: between 70.5 cm and 72.5 cm
  • Transverse circumference: between 52.7 cm and 54 cm
  • Pressure: between 0.86 bar and 0.93 bar

The playing time

The total playing time of an American Football match is 60 minutes. The match is broken into four parts, known as "quarters." Each of the four quarters is 15 minutes long. However, an American Football game is actually much longer than 60 minutes because there are numerous interruptions between moves as well as timeouts and regular breaks between the quarters.

The breaks between the first and second and the third and fourth quarters each last two minutes. The halftime pause lasts 20 minutes. In addition to this, each team is allowed to take three timeouts in each half of the game, with a maximum of two minutes. The game can also be interrupted by the referee if an injured player is on the field (injury timeout).

The course of the game

The goal of each team is to get the football into the end zone of the opposing team. The direction of play is always clearly defined. Only one of the two teams is moving forward and trying to score points.

The offensive team has four attempts to advance at least ten yards (approx. 9 m). The defensive team does everything possible to prevent this and to bring the player in possession of the ball to the ground as early as possible ("tackle").

If the offensive team is successful, it gets four new attempts to gain another ten yards. If it does not succeed, the opponent becomes the attacking team and gets a chance to score points.

Points are scored as follows:

Move / Points  Description
(6 points)
The football is carried or thrown into the opponent's end zone. This is followed by the conversion, which gives the team another chance to score.
Conversion Kick
(1 point)
After a touchdown, another point is scored by kicking the ball through the goal.
Two Point Conversion / Conversion Touchdown
(2 points)
After a touchdown, two more points are scored with a run or pass move.
Field Goal
(3 points)
The football is standing on the ground and is kicked into the goal with the foot.
(2 points)
A score by the defense: the defending team stops the offensive team's ball carrier in its own end zone.

The match is won by the team that has scored the most points at the end of the playing time. If the score is tied after the regular 60 minutes, the game will proceed to overtime and be extended by 15 minutes. For games played during the preseason, the game will end immediately if a team scores a touchdown or safety during overtime.

American football player and stadium

An innovation was introduced for playoff matches in 2022. Under the new overtime rule, each of the two teams is guaranteed to have possession of the ball. This means that both teams have the opportunity to score a touchdown. Previously, the team that won the coin toss had an advantage.

The American Football leagues

American Football is played in schools and colleges all over the USA. The best athletes advance to the American professional league NFL.

The professional league NFL

The professional American Football League in the USA is called the National Football League (NFL) and has existed since 1920. It is one of the most important North American professional sports leagues and the most important American Football League in the world.

The NFL teams

The NFL includes a total of 32 teams, which are divided into two conferences with 16 teams each: the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC). The two conferences are, in turn, divided into four divisions (North, South, East, and West).

The preseason

The NFL season begins in August with the three-week preseason, during which teams play several test games before the actual season begins.

The regular season

The actual NFL season is called the regular season. It traditionally begins on the weekend after Labor Day and lasts about 18 weeks until the beginning of January. A total of 272 matches are played, with each of the 32 NFL teams playing 17 games within the 18 weeks. One week has no matches. After that, the seven most successful teams from each conference move on to the playoffs.

The playoffs

The playoffs are the final round of the NFL season and are a single-elimination tournament. The four division winners from the AFC and NFC, plus three wildcard teams each, qualify for the playoffs. For historical reasons, the American Football Conference and National Football Conference teams compete separately at first. The playoff winners from the AFC and NFC ultimately face off in the final game, the Super Bowl.

The Super Bowl

The Super Bowl, held in February each year, is the final match of the playoffs and the highlight of the NFL season. Moreover, as the biggest US sporting event of the year, it is followed by more than 100 million viewers on a regular basis.

The best teams from both the AFC and NFC conferences will compete for the legendary Vince Lombardi Trophy, a sterling silver, full-size football on a pedestal. Apart from the winning team, the most valuable player of the Super Bowl, the Super Bowl MVP (Most Valuable Player), will also be awarded.

The Super Bowl has alternating venues. The host cities are always announced several years in advance. However, it is not only a top sporting event but also an entertainment highlight: the most famous singers in the USA perform during the legendary halftime show. Some of the best performances of all time include the Super Bowl shows by Prince (2007), U2 (2002), and Michael Jackson (1993).

Based on their Super Bowl wins, the most successful NFL teams to date are:

Team Super Bowl wins
Pittsburgh Steelers 6
New England Patriots 6
San Francisco 49ers 5
Dallas Cowboys 5
New York Giants 4
Green Bay Packers 4

College Football in America

American college football also offers exciting matches. Several hundred US universities currently have an American Football team. They play in either the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) or the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).

The NCAA is where the well-known college football teams of the larger universities play. The NCAA is, in turn, divided into several divisions of quality. The NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) together form Division I, which includes the best American colleges. The FBS includes 130 teams, and 124 teams play in the FCS.

Other NCAA teams play in Divisions II and III. The NAIA, the league of smaller US colleges, is about the same level of quality.

American Football legends

NFL players are celebrated stars in the USA. Experts from the newspaper USA TODAY have compiled a list of the greatest American Football legends of all time in 2022. As a fan of US sports, these five names should be familiar to you:

Player Achievements
Jerry Rice (NFL player 1985-2004; San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks) 3x Super Bowl champion; holds the NFL records for touchdowns (208), receptions (1.549), receiving yards (23.546), and touchdown receptions (197)
Tom Brady (NFL player 2000-today; New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers) 6x Super Bowl champion, 4x Super Bowl MVP
Lawrence Taylor (NFL player 1981-1993; New York Giants) 2x Super Bowl champion, 9x First Team All-Pro, NFL MVP 1986, 3x NFL Defensive Player of the Year
Jim Brown (NFL player 1957-1965; Cleveland Browns) 4x NFL MVP, 8x First Team All-Pro, first player in NFL history with 100 rushing touchdowns, record holder for average rushing yards per game (104,3)
Walter Payton (NFL player 1975-1987; Chicago Bears) Super Bowl champion 1986, NFL MVP 1997, second-best rusher in NFL history

American Football live streams

Have you caught the American football fever? You never want to miss a game again? This is how you get the best of US sports into your living room:

NFL Game Pass

NFL Game Pass is your ultimate ticket to the world of American Football. With the one-year subscription, you can livestream all games of the NFL season, the preseason matches, the playoffs, and, of course, the Superbowl. In addition, you get exciting background reports and 24/7 news that keep you up to date on all the news about your favorite sport. In the United States, NFL Game Pass costs $ 99.99 for the entire season.


The streaming service of ESPN Plus (also ESPN+) brings more than 10,000 top sporting events to your living room. These include not only the NFL games but also the best of college football and other sports like basketball, baseball, ice hockey, and lacrosse. Furthermore, you can enjoy a multitude of sports documentaries and live shows. In the USA, the ESPN Plus subscription costs $ 7 per month or $ 70 for the whole year.

American Football on free TV

A variety of American Football games will also air on channels, including ESPN, NFL Network, and your local FOX, NBC, and CBS affiliates. Depending on the region you live in, you may, however, only be able to watch certain matches. NBC shows Sunday Night Football, ESPN has Monday Night Football, CBS broadcasts AFC games on Sunday afternoons, and FOX also offers some NFC games. NFL Network shows a bunch of matches throughout the whole season.

Buying NFL merchandise

Would you like to cheer on your favorite team with style during the next American Football event? You can find a variety of stores online where you can stock up on NFL stars' and teams' merchandise.

These are our favorite stores for NFL gear in the USA:

  • Fanatics
  • Lids
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods
  • Kohl’s
  • Walmart

Buying NFL tickets

Would you like to watch the NFL stars compete live on the pitch? In the online store of our partner Ticketmaster, you can secure your tickets with just a few clicks.

You're guaranteed to find what you're looking for at Ticketmaster! Its offer includes all games of all NFL teams in the regular season, as well as the playoffs and the Super Bowl. Get your tickets for your favorite team now!

Find tickets on Ticketmaster

NFL games 2023 in Germany

Wouldn't it be great to be at a live NFL game? If you are located in Europe, we have great news for you! You don't even have to fly to the USA, as every NFL team is obliged to play outside the United States at least once every eight years.

You can choose between two top matches taking place in Germany, among others. After the great success of the guest game in Munich in November 2022, the NFL professionals are coming to Germany again in 2023! Your chances of getting a spot in a German stadium are even twice as high this year! In November 2023, two matches will take place at Deutsche Bank Park in Frankfurt on the Main.

  • November 5th, 2023: Miami Dolphins vs. Kansas City Chiefs November
  • 12th, 2023: Indianapolis Colts vs. New England Patriots

Get your ticket now!

NFL in Frankfurt on the Main 2023

NFL games 2023 in the UK

Europe offers even more American Football highlights, as the NFL will once again be hosting three matches in London and Tottenham in 2023.

These top games await you in October 2023 in the United Kingdom:

Atlanta Falcons vs. Jacksonville Jaguars October 1st, 2023 TWembley-Stadion London Find tickets
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Buffalo Bills October 8th, 2023 Tottenham Hotspur Stadium Find tickets
Baltimore Ravens vs. Tennessee Titans October 15th, 2023 Tottenham Hotspur Stadium Find tickets

To the USA for an American Football game

Would you like to cheer on your favorite team in the USA? Wonderful, you can perfectly combine a visit to an NFL match with a holiday or a road trip in the USA!

The 32 teams of the NFL are spread over almost the entire territory of the United States, so you have a huge variety of vacation options. Book a cheap flight, reserve your ticket, and off you go to the motherland of American Football!

And that's how you get to the NFL games:

Team Stadium Tickets 
Arizona Cardinals State Farm Stadium Find tickets
Atlanta Falcons Mercedes-Benz Stadium Find tickets
Baltimore Ravens M&T Bank Stadium Find tickets
Buffalo Bills Highmark Stadium Find tickets
Carolina Panthers Bank of America Stadium Find tickets
Chicago Bears Soldier Field Find tickets
Cincinnati Bengals Paul Brown Stadium Find tickets
Cleveland Browns FirstEnergy Stadium Find tickets
Dallas Cowboys AT&T Stadium Find tickets
Denver Broncos Empower Field at Mile High Find tickets
Detroit Lions Ford Field Find tickets
Green Bay Packers Lambeau Field Find tickets
Houston Texans NRG Stadium Find tickets
Indianapolis Colts Lucas Oil Stadium Find tickets
Jacksonville Jaguars TIAA Bank Field Find tickets
Kansas City Chiefs Arrowhead Stadium Find tickets
Las Vegas Raiders Allegiant Stadium Find tickets
Los Angeles Chargers SoFi Stadium Find tickets
Los Angeles Rams SoFi Stadium Find tickets
Miami Dolphins Hard Rock Stadium Find tickets
Minnesota Vikings U.S. Bank Stadium Find tickets
New England Patriots Gillette Stadium Find tickets
New Orleans Saints Superdome Find tickets
New York Giants MetLife Stadium Find tickets
New York Jets MetLife Stadium Find tickets
Philadelphia Eagles Lincoln Financial Field Find tickets
Pittsburgh Steelers Heinz Field Find tickets
San Francisco 49ers Levi’s Stadium Find tickets
Seattle Seahawks Lumen Field Find tickets
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Raymond James Stadium Find tickets
Tennessee Titans Nissan Stadium Find tickets
Washington Commanders FedEx Field Find tickets

More US sports

Would you like to dive deeper into the world of US sports? No problem, our articles on baseball, basketball, and ice hockey are already waiting for you!

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