A History of the NFL and AFL Merger

A look at how the NFL and AFL merged to create one professional football league.

A History of the NFL and AFL Merger


The National Football League (NFL) and the American Football League (AFL) began to merger in 1966. This was a result of many factors, including the immense popularity of professional football, the financial success of the AFL, and the abundance of talented players. The AFL-NFL Merger was formed in order to create one major professional football league that would rule them all. This merger resulted in some serious changes in the way professional football was played and organized, as well as how it was marketed to fans.

Pre-Merger History

Before the AFL and NFL merged in 1970, the two leagues were rivals. The NFL was founded in 1920, while the AFL was founded in 1960. The AFL was seen as a threat to the NFL, and the two leagues were in competition for players and fans. In 1966, the two leagues agreed to merge, and in 1970, the AFL-NFL World Championship Game was played for the first time.

The National Football League (NFL)

The National Football League (NFL) is a professional American football league consisting of 32 teams, divided equally between the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC). The NFL is one of the four major professional sports leagues in North America, and the highest professional level of American football in the world. The NFL was formed in 1920 as the American Professional Football Association (APFA) before renaming itself the National Football League for the 1922 season.

The NFL agreed to merge with the American Football League (AFL) in 1966, making the Super Bowl its annual championship game. The biggest change that came with this merger was that now there were two football conferences instead of just one, meaning that more teams could compete for a chance to play in and ultimately win the Super Bowl.

The American Football League (AFL)

The American Football League (AFL) was a professional football league that operated from 1960 to 1969. The AFL was the brainchild of Lamar Hunt, a Texas businessman who had tried unsuccessfully to purchase an NFL franchise. When he wasagain rebuffed by the NFL, Hunt decided to start his own league.

The AFL began play in 1960 with eight teams: the Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, Houston Oilers, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, New York Titans (later renamed the Jets), Oakland Raiders and Boston Patriots (later renamed the New England Patriots). The league quickly gained credibility by signing some of the NFL’s best players, including future Hall of Famers like QB Billy Cannon and WR Lance Alworth.

In 1966, the AFL and NFL reached an agreement to merge into one league. The first Super Bowl was played between the AFL champion Chiefs and the NFL champion Green Bay Packers in 1967.

The Merger

The National Football League (NFL) and the American Football League (AFL) merged in 1966, creating one league with two conferences. The NFL and AFL had been vying for players and fans since the early 1960s. The AFL was seen as the upstart league, while the NFL was the established league.

The First Merger Attempt

In 1966, the National Football League (NFL) and the American Football League (AFL) differed in several ways. The NFL was the older, more established league with a long history dating back to 1920. The AFL was founded in 1960 as a rival professional league. One of the most significant difference between the two leagues was that the NFL had a television contract with NBC, while the AFL had television contracts with both ABC and NBC.

In November 1966, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle and AFL Commissioner Al Davis met to discuss the possibility of a merger between the two leagues. Rozelle wanted a merger because he believed it would be beneficial for both leagues. He thought that a merger would increase interest in professional football and make it more profitable. Davis was against a merger because he believed it would weaken the AFL.

The two commissioners could not agree on terms for a merger, so they decided to try again in 1967.

The Second Merger Attempt

In 1966, Lambeau Field was the site of what was supposed to be the first AFL-NFL World Championship game (later renamed the Super Bowl). Instead, it became the catalyst for the second, and final, AFL-NFL merger attempt. Packers president Dominic Olejniczak andRaiders managing general partner F. Wayne Valley convinced the other AFL and NFL owners that a merger would be in everyone’s best interests.

After several months of negotiation, a merger agreement was reached in June 1967. The AFL would merge with the NFL in 1970, with each league intact as conferences within the new organization. A joint NFL-AFL draft would be held in 1969, with each league having 20 rounds to select college players. The Oakland Raiders were selected as the 26th franchise through a coin toss with the Baltimore Colts (now Indianapolis Colts).

Post-Merger History

The National Football League (NFL) and American Football League (AFL) merged in 1970, creating a 26-team league. The new NFL was organized into two conferences, the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC). Each conference had three divisions, East, West, and Central.

The New NFL

After the AFL and NFL merger in 1970, the new NFL was formed with two conferences — the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC). The NFC consisted of all the former NFL teams, while the AFC was made up of all the AFL teams. The first Super Bowl was played in 1967 between the Green Bay Packers of the NFL and the Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL. The Packers won, 35-10.

In 1970, the first regular season game between an NFC and AFC team was played. The Cincinnati Bengals (AFC) beat the Detroit Lions (NFC), 24-21.

Today, there are 32 teams in the NFL — 16 in each conference. The NFC is made up of four divisions (East, West, North, and South), while the AFC has three divisions (East, West, and North).

The New AFL

In 1970, the AFL and NFL completed their merger, creating a 26-team league that featured a balanced schedule and a championship game between the champions of each conference. The new AFL expanded rapidly, adding four new teams in 1971 and six more in 1972. By 1974, the league had 28 teams, split into two conferences of seven divisions each.

The new AFL also changed its name to the National Football Conference (NFC), while the NFL became the American Football Conference (AFC). The AFC included all 16 teams from the pre-merger NFL, as well as the 10 teams from the original AFL. The NFC was made up of 14 teams from the post-merger AFL and two additional expansion teams.

Over the next few years, several more teams would join the NFC, including the Seattle Seahawks (1976), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1976), New Orleans Saints (1967), and Atlanta Falcons (1966).

Keyword: A History of the NFL and AFL Merger

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