A Canadian football player stretches out the football to score a touchdown

American Football Could Learn from Canadian Football Format

  • American Football
  • Canadian Football
  • CFL
  • College Football
  • Football
  • NCAA
  • NFL
By Michael Pallas January 3, 2021 0 Comment
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The American football system needs to be more like the one north of the border. Canada has a very good system, but the new American system should be slightly different.

Currently, the system in American football is very flawed. What makes the current system unfair is two-fold. The first is that football players are exploited and not allowed to make money directly from their efforts on the field. The second part is that they don’t have a choice if they want to play pro football. They have to go high school to college then, finally, to be drafted into the NFL.

Currently, American football has only one pathway to get paid. It’s the only avenue in life in which there is only one way toward the ultimate goal (a career), and that needs to change.

Canadian Football Format

In Canadian amateur football, they have junior football or U Sports. Junior football is for college-age players. They are amateurs, and many have moved on to pro football leagues.

Canadian players also have an option to play football at the university level. It’s the Canadian equivalent to the NCAA.

Even though junior football in Canada is still amateur football, at least there are multiple ways to pursue amateur football to eventually be a pro football player.

The New American Football System Part I: Junior Football (Amateurs)

In American junior football, there would be three levels. The lowest level would be the Junior Varsity level. Players would only be eligible for the JV level from their seventh grade class year through their 10th grade class year. The next is the varsity level. You may play at the varsity level beginning in the year of your ninth-grade class year. Following the fourth year of eligibility at the varsity level, players will then have a choice.

The New American System Part II: The Amateurism Choice

Under the new system, the high school graduates will have two choices. They can continue on and play college football. They would remain amateurs and have to abide by the NCAA rules. Many people deem the rules of the NCAA fair, but at least in this system, they would have the choice. If a player were to choose college over the other option, it was his choice, and would have no complaints. This will be known as the university level of junior football. NFL teams will still be permitted to draft players from the university level should they deem someone worthy of playing in the league. Players who enter the NFL Draft and go undrafted will lose amateur status, but they will be eligible to play in the professional developmental league, provided they have not been out of the varsity level of junior football for five years.

The New American Football System Part III: The Professional Developmental League

This is where the American football system would differ from our neighbors to the north. However, unlike minor league baseball, these players would not be drafted by an NFL team and work for a minor league affiliate. This would be a separate entity, but it would be funded by the NFL.

The Structure

The league would operate under NFL rules, in terms of gameplay. There would be eight teams and would never expand beyond eight. There would be two four-team divisions on a twelve-game schedule: eight intradivision games and four inter-division games. The two division winners would then play a championship game.

Roster size/Compensation

Teams can enter training camp with a maximum of 125 players. However, the active roster must be trimmed to 47 players by the week prior to the start of the season. (There will be no preseason games.) All 47 players would be active for game day. There would be a practice squad with a minimum of 10 players and a maximum of 15 players.

The pay for the league is simple. Every player who is signed to an active roster will make the NFL league minimum, regardless of position. As a reference point, if the league started in 2020, every active player would make $610,000. Practice squad players would make 75% of their NFL counterparts. For reference, in 2020, that would’ve been $6,300 per week.

There is no salary cap in this league, due to the high-risk nature, and injuries leading to elevating a practice squad player’s salary to the NFL minimum. However, when it comes to the contracts for active players, 25% of their salaries are guaranteed if they are cut and 100% are guaranteed for injury.

League Eligibility/NFL Draft

There won’t be an age range like in Canadian junior football for this league. You may play in the league up through the fifth year after your high school graduating class, similar to college football with the redshirt rule. Unlike college football, however, you may play all five years in this league. When it comes to the NFL Draft, nearly all amateurs and developmental league players are eligible. Those that complete five years in the developmental league will be NFL free agents following their fifth season. Those that go undrafted from the developmental league may return.


I will make a hypothesis on this one. If the league is able to sway top high school talent away from college football, this league would undoubtedly generate ratings similar to college football. It would make sense for networks to bid on them. Two networks would get regional games played every Wednesday. All four games would be at the same time every week, and each of the two networks would get two games weekly.

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Michael has been covering the Jets since 2015 for various blogs, and he’s the host of Bleav in Jets.


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