The National Football League (NFL) is the highest level of professional American football. It was formed by eleven teams in 1920 as the American Professional Football Association, with the league changing its name to the National Football League in 1922. The league currently consists of thirty-two teams from the United States. The league is divided evenly into two conferences — the American Football Conference (AFC) and National Football Conference (NFC), and each conference has four divisions that have four teams each. The NFL is organized as an unincorporated association of its 32 teams.The NFL is by far the most attended domestic sports league in the world by average attendance per game, with 67,509 fans per game in the latest regular season (2009).
The regular season is a seventeen-week schedule during which each team plays sixteen games and has one bye week. The season currently starts on the Thursday night in the first full week of September (the Thursday after Labor Day) and runs weekly to late December or early January. At the end of each regular season, six teams from each conference play in theNFL playoffs, a twelve-team single-elimination tournament that culminates with the championship game, known as theSuper Bowl. This game is held at a pre-selected site which is usually a city that hosts an NFL team.
In 1920 representatives of several professional American football leagues and independent teams founded the American Professional Football Conference, soon renamed the National Football League. The first officialchampionship game was held in 1933. By 1958, when that season’s NFL championship game became known as “The Greatest Game Ever Played”, the NFL was on its way to becoming one of the most popular sports leagues in the United States. The merger with the American Football League, agreed to in 1966 and completed in 1970, greatly expanded the league and created the Super Bowl, which has become the most-watched annual sporting event in the United States.
The NFL consists of thirty-two clubs. Each club is allowed a maximum of fifty-three players on their roster, but they may only dress forty-five to play each week during the regular season. Unlike Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League, the league has no full-time teams in Canada, although the Buffalo Bills play one game per year in Toronto. Most teams are in the eastern half of the United States; seventeen teams are in the Eastern Time Zone and nine others in the Central Time Zone.
Most major metropolitan areas in the United States have an NFL franchise, although Los Angeles, the second-largest metropolitan area in the country, has not hosted an NFL team since 1994