In 1892, the sport of American football was still in its infancy. Its roots may be traced back to two games that have long been popular in many regions of the world: soccer and rugby. Rutgers and Princeton played the first collegiate football game on November 6, 1869. The game was played at New York's College Football Championship—now known as Athletic Park. It was a rough game with little strategy used by either team. There were several rules differences between the two sports including no yard lines or goal posts, and only players on the field at any given time. However, they did use a ball for play that was similar to what we know today as football.
After this initial game, there was not much interest in college football until 1872 when Yale and Harvard played each other for the first time. These two schools would become known as the "Ivies" and the "Harslets," respectively. They continued to meet annually until 1895 when Yale refused to play Harvard due to their differences in theology. During this time, other colleges began to adopt the rules of football (which had changed since its inception in 1869) from both soccer and rugby. In 1873, an article in a magazine called Nature published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science noted that a new sport was becoming popular among students around the country.
The National Football League (NFL) began in 1920 as the American Professional Football Association (APFA), with 10 teams from four states, all of which had competed in regional leagues in their respective areas. In 1922, the league adopted its current name. The NFL expanded rapidly, adding nine more teams by 1929 and another six teams by 1932. The Great Depression slowed down this growth, however; only two new teams were added after 1930.
By 1936, there were only 12 teams in the NFL, but the number increased to 14 by 1940. World War II halted professional football for several years; the war ended in 1945, and the NFL again expanded its membership to 16 teams that year. Another team was added in 1946, and by 1948, there were 22 teams playing in the NFL. This number has since fluctuated between 23 and 24 teams.
Currently, there are 24 teams who make up the NFL, one more than when it started. The NFL began planning for a franchise in London back in 2010, and they will be starting a new season in 2019. The team will be owned by an anonymous British investor and will play its home games at Wembley Stadium.
The NFL is considered by many to be the most popular sports league in America. It is also the largest, with revenues of $14 billion in 2017.
According to popular belief, the game was invented in England in the 12th century. Football-like sports were played in English fields and roadways throughout the twentieth century. Aside from kicks, the game also included fist blows to the ball. It is estimated that up to half of all men between 15 and 65 years old were killed during World War I.
The first written reference to "football" comes from 1456. The term then referred to a round leather ball that could be kicked or punched. The modern game of soccer did not emerge until much later, in 1866. By this time, several other variations of football were already in existence. One such variation called "Rugby Football" had its origins in England, but it was the game known today as American football that became popular there and across the world.
After the Civil War in America, a group of New York City businessmen who were members of various clubs that played rugby football formed the American Association in 1873. This was the first professional league in North America. However, the only thing that made the American Association different from other leagues that have come since is that it used a round ball instead of the oval one now used in soccer. The American Association only lasted for one season because they could not agree on how to split the proceeds from games played by their members.