Editorial: The NFL Should Adopt a Minor League

Ethan K.

Over the years, many experimental football leagues have been established, but almost all have folded in just a short amount of time. However, despite the array of subsidiary leagues, none have partnered with the NFL as a “minor league” of sorts. The XFL did recently announce a partnership with the NFL, but their partnership included no intention of enhancing player development through a minor league. Instead, they agreed to collaborate on safety and technology advancements. The nonexistence of an NFL minor league needs to change. 

While many of these experimental leagues have sent players to the NFL (usually after the league had folded), there is yet to be a legitimate connection between the leagues. By adopting the XFL or USFL as a true minor league to the NFL, many amazing things would result. Not only could this league be a “sister league” to the NFL, but it could be a direct subordinate, much like the EFL Championship is to the Premier League in English soccer. Every year, one to three teams from the NFL’s minor league could be promoted to the big leagues and one to three teams in the NFL would be relegated to the minor league. 

This very idea would almost certainly eliminate the process of tanking. Teams could no longer intentionally lose in the hopes of gaining a higher draft pick, much like the Jacksonville Jaguars have in recent years. If they did intend on tanking, they may get a decent player, but they would be relegated to the minor league, all but erasing the benefits of performing the practice. In addition, looking at the viewership ratings of the MLS (which lacks promotion and relegation) compared to the English Premier League (which does have promotion), the Premier League averages almost 200,000 more viewers per game, largely in part to the variety of competition that is seen each season (TheAthletic.com) with a variety of teams. Being able to spectate new teams and getting a multitude of clubs to play in the best leagues is an amazing way for the NFL to boost their already impeccable viewership. 

Additionally, by establishing additional teams that are not connected to the pre-existing NFL teams, more cities would receive professional football teams and the sport would grow even bigger. The league could even bring back NFL Europe or set up teams across the globe, rather than sticking solely to the United States. Per a late 2019 Forbes survey, the NFL has already become Mexico’s second-most-popular sport, meaning that the growth of the game in new areas is almost certain. Placing more teams across the world would most likely lead to even more growth (much like in Mexico) and skyrocket the revenue of the NFL. 

Finally, this idea would actually reward the success of the teams in the so-called minor league. Unlike in the past, teams would get a legitimate benefit for their triumphs. They would be promoted to the best league in football and have the chance of becoming a contender in the NFL. Past XFL and USFL champions obviously won a championship and trophy, but how much of a reward is that really? Getting a chance to compete for the Super Bowl, by playing in the NFL, is a much better reward. 

Due to the unwillingness of the NFL to adopt a minor league that shares players with current clubs, having a separate sister league is a much better idea. Allowing teams to rise and fall through the minor leagues is a great way to grow football, eliminate cheeky draft strategies and lead to better development of players across both leagues.