In the summer of 2013, everything changed and the SFL became a success story. The league’s first season had seven teams: The Dallas Stars, Grand Rapids Rollers, Kailua Wyverns, New York Knights, Oklahoma City Renegades, Orlando Intimidators and the San Francisco Bulldogs. New York defeated Oklahoma City 45-41 in the first SFL Championship Game in Orlando in front of a then-record 32 viewers on the SFL Network on Twitch.
In the league’s third season, the Baltimore Crabs joined as the league’s first expansion team since the initial launch, plus the SFL returned all seven members from the first two campaigns. The SFL partnered with CAG NFL, a user-vs-user sim football experience, which also utilized All-Pro Football 2k8 to broaden each league’s horizon, helping 2k8 league’s remain alive and prosperes. The New York Knights won their second title, a 22-20 triumph over San Francisco (the game was played in Kailua).
The league had 10 applicants for expansion teams and chose four new members, growing the league to a high of 12 teams. The D.C. Dragons, Louisville Wolfpack, Santa Fe Gorillas and Tallahassee Pride became the new teams. For the first time, the SFL split into conferences. Greg Morris and Mike Peters joined the league as weekly analysts on SFL Network broadcasts and the league announced a documentary was in the works about Commissioner Cameron Irvine’s journey as the Commissioner of the league. The Dragons took the title over the Gorillas 31-30 in what is widely considered the greatest SFL game ever played.
The league adopted a new broadcast structure, airing multiple games a night across the SFL family of networks, creating the true NFL Sunday experience three nights a week. Leading into Season 6, the SFL established new user players with an official SFL Rookie Draft for the first time.
After the most competitive postseason in professional football history, the Queen City Corsairs topped Houston for the franchise’s third title.
In Season 7, the Los Angeles Sharks became California’s new team after the San Francisco Sharks folded and the Dallas Law rebranded to the Dallas Ruffnecks. Louisville became the first team to finish a regular season undefeated in a 12-game campaign and Santa Fe returned to dominance finishing 10-2 after a 3-9 stint. But the two heavyweights would fall in the postseason – the Gorillas losing a wild turnover-filled game to Orlando and the Wolfpack falling to the Minneapolis Maulers – at home – in the Championship.
It was Minneapolis’ second title, going on the road twice to claim the ultimate prize.
In the postseason, it was Queen City continuing to shatter records with its fourth championship, this time with a win over Dallas.
The summer saw the league’s first NFL player come into the fold, with former Philadelphia Eagle and Houston Texans running back Ryan Moats joining the league office. The league also got its first chance to showcase its product in front of an international audience, landing its Championship Game on the Twitch Front Page. The event was such a hit, the league inked five more broadcasts for the following season and continued their Twitch Front Page era through early 2019.
Mexico City claimed its first title in the Championship, beating Chicago. Los Angeles folded, Las Vegas moved back to Cleveland, the league expanded to Chicago (Wildcats), San Antonio (Vaqueros) and Vancouver (Legion) to get back to 16 teams.
Tallahassee became the second team to finish 12-0 in the regular season but like Louisville, were dethroned by the Alaska Storm, who won its first title, beginning an unprecedented run of dominance. The Championship Game was the first game to be broadcasted live on location at league partner, MediaTech Institute. The league hosted Shapes and Forms, a graphic design company from California who does work for networks across the country, who was interested in rebranding the SFL – but ultimately the two entities did not strike a deal.
The Alaska Storm became the first team to win back-to-back SFL titles in Season 11 and also became the first team to finish an entire season undefeated since the Minneapolis Maulers went unbeaten in Season 4 (just an eight-game regular season). The title defense began at the inaugural SFL Convention, held in Dallas at Showbusiness Studios – a three-day event that included the induction of the league’s first Hall-of-Fame class, 10 live-on-location games, Q&A Panels with league experts and gave league members a chance to all meet each other for the first time.
Rapid expansion continued as Baltimore returned under the same ownership, but a different name (Vultures) and Las Vegas (Fury) and New Orleans (Pharaohs) got their own teams. San Antonio became the first franchise in league history to be sold, and was sold to the ownership group of the Denver Nightwings.
For the first time, the league maintained the same franchises from the previous season and stayed at 21 teams. The season may be most remembered for its four way tie for the final two spots that forced the league to re-schedule Wild Card Wednesday because playoff participants could not be decided until the final regular season game was played. The SFL held its second convention, this time in Atlanta.
Television came calling in August and the SFL landed it's first television partnership with Eleven Sports and For the Fans networks, bringing SFL football into 65 million homes. The first game on television - Houston and London - featured a dramatic come-from-behind victory in the closing minutes.
That season, Seattle's rise to power challenged Denver in the fall but this time, the Nightwings earned their first title completing their ascent from mediocrity to the top team in the league. The league would sever ties with San Francisco and go with 20 teams to finish out the year, promising expansion to 22 in 2020.
In December, the league held its first in-studio Rookie Draft at FTF studios in Massachusetts where players got to hear their names called on television and even got to get selected live and in-person.
On the field, the Atlanta Swarm knocked off the Sioux Falls Sparrows to claim their first title as the league grew with additions of the Portland Fleet and Fort Worth Toros. Seattle was sold to an ownership group that would bring the team back to Texas under the Lone Star Glory and the New Orleans was sold and rebranded to the Louisiana Revolution. Alaska left for Fort Lauderdale and Tallahassee moved to Jacksonville, capitalizing on available major markets for local ownership.
With more players than ever, the Minor League - SFLm - was established with eight teams to help develop players before they entered the league through the Rookie Draft. Spring's Draft set records, going seven rounds as rosters expanded to 20 users per team. The Madison Lynx defeated the Ottawa Cavalry in the first SFLm Championship Game. The league would grow to nine teams for its second season in the fall.
Sioux Falls would make the Championship Game again but would be ousted this time by the Baltimore Vultures, the fourth different team to win a league title in the last four seasons. Heading into 2021, the league is up to 24 teams, returning all of its previous franchises and adding the D.C. Dragons and the San Diego Fleet. Chicago was sold and rebranded in Los Angeles as the Lycans.