American Football

Learn about the History of American Football

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A Brief History of American Football

American football was invented during the 19th century at Ivy League universities in the United States and Canada. Initially different versions of modern football were played at each school; today these versions are known as rugby union and Canadian football.


The two sports developed divergent sets of rules at their colleges; however, as the game became more popular, teams began to travel across North America, increasing the need for standardization of the rules.

Early Beginnings: Soccer and Rugby

In 1869, the first game of football was played between two college teams, Rutgers and Princeton. The rules were based on the soccer rules at the time.

In 1873, Harvard and Yale played each other in a match that featured 25 players per team as opposed to Rugby’s 15 players. As a result, rugby abandoned its rugby union rule which allowed for throwing the ball.


The First American Football Match

On November 6, 1869, Rutgers and Princeton played the first football game in what is now the United States. The two teams met at a place called College Field in New Brunswick, New Jersey, on a chilly Saturday afternoon. The game was won by Rutgers 16-0.


Rules and Regulations

American Football is played between two opposing teams of eleven players plus subs. The offensive players try to score a touchdown by running with and passing a football down the field, whilst defensive players try to stop stop their advance in it’s tracks and and gain control of the football for themselves.

If a player on either side has possession of the ball, his team is said to be on offense, and if he does not have it his team is said to be on defense. Generally, linemen (players who do not handle the ball) are used in both offensive and defensive roles.

The Growth of American Football

In 1869, Rutgers and Princeton played the first-ever American football game. It was a rugby-style game that used a soccer ball and two goalposts. They called it The College Football Match.

In 1880, Yale, Harvard and Princeton formed the Intercollegiate Football Association to establish a set of rules. In 1882, they published the first set of college football rules.


Today’s American Football

American football has evolved a lot since its first match. To start, the teams were originally divided up into offense and defense, with only eleven players on the team at one time.


Today’s American Football is more complex – there are eleven players on each team with three downs to either run the ball or get more yards before they have to punt it away, and there are a variety of passes that can be used to advance the ball downfield.