Flag Football Growth

According to the International Federation of American Football, 2.4 million kids under 17 are playing organized flag football in the U.S., while millions more participate in flag globally.

IFAF is the global governing body responsible for growing American football around the world and oversees the regulation, competition, performance, and development parts of the game.

“Tackle [football] will continue as the professional game played in the NFL and its amateur pipeline from youth through college,” said Vincent, Sr. “But flag will dominate in neighborhoods, schools and recreational leagues around the world. It's happening in front of our eyes.”

International Expansion

Across IFAF’s 75 national member federations, flag football is expected to overtake tackle football worldwide in terms of organized participation opportunities in 2023. IFAF is also preparing to launch elite international flag competitions in 2023 that will feature teams representing every continent for the first time.

To amplify and support the long-term growth and momentum of flag football across the world, the NFL and IFAF launched the Global Flag Football Ambassadors program in 2022. Ambassadors support the global efforts of IFAF and the NFL to increase international awareness, interest and participation in flag football and drive the development of the game.

Flag football competitions have been a major part of the IFAF’s efforts since 2002, when IFAF held the first world championships for men’s and women’s flag football. Tournaments now occur every other year.


Men’s Flag World Champions 

Women’s Flag World Champions 














United States of America 






United States of America 



United States of America 



United States of America 

United States of America 


United States of America 

United States of America 

*The 2020 IFAF Championships were postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2022, flag football made its first appearance at The World Games in Birmingham, Alabama.

The United States’ men’s team captured a gold medal in a victory over Italy. Mexico and star quarterback Diana Flores defeated the U.S. women to win the gold medal.

The 2022 World Games marked the first time that flag football was part of an international, multi-sport event. More than 3,500 athletes from approximately 100 countries competed in the World Games with 192 competing in flag football competitions.

“Being a part of the sports program in the 2022 World Games formalizes flag football as an international sport, which promotes the values and benefits of the game to fans around the world,” said Troy Vincent Sr., NFL executive vice president of football operations. “Flag football affords men and women, boys and girls, of all ages, body types, and athletic skills the opportunity to enjoy the values, fun and competitive environment that only football offers.”

Momentum is growing behind the sports which has seen the NFL start NFL FLAG operations in several countries, with the highest participation in Canada, China, Germany, Mexico, and the United Kingdom. Although there isn’t an office in Japan, flag football is part of the physical education curriculum in primary schools with Australia and Ghana launching operations in 2022 and Kenya and New Zealand in 2023.

The Future of Football in the States

Across the U.S., the NFL, and its clubs are working with more than 2,000 schools to integrate flag football into the physical education curriculum. They are also working with eight states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and New York on sanctioning flag football as a varsity sport in high schools.

The growth is largely attributed to NFL FLAG, with more than 1,600 teams serving over 620,000 youth athletes (ranging from 4-17) in all 50 states. Behind the increase are NFL FLAG’s strategic campaigns and partnerships to bring flag football to thousands of schools, communities and families around the country.

The NFL hosted the Flag All 32 Summer Invitational in Washington, D.C. in July 2023.

College conferences across the country are recognizing flag football as an intercollegiate sport. The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics declared women’s flag football as an emerging sport in 2020 and the National Junior College Athletic Association is planning to make a similar declaration in 2023.

The Atlantic East Conference announced its plan to be the first NCAA Conference – Division I, II or III – to offer varsity female flag football with an anticipated start date of Spring 2025. While varsity level status will not begin until Spring 2025, there are plans to offer club level opportunities and weekend tournaments for all participating in Spring 2024.

For the past three years, the NAIA has hosted the Women’s Flag Championship at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium with Ottawa University capturing the 2023 title.

Although the number of programs at the collegiate level continues to grow, high school flag football serves as the main pipeline for growth domestically. Around 15,700 girls played high school flag football in 2021-2022 — a 40% increase since 2018 — and women continue to drive some of the fastest growth in the game.

With recreational flag football as important as ever, NFL FLAG is keeping a close eye on growth in that area with its partner, RCX Sports. The official operating partner of NFL FLAG, RCX Sports announced a new partnership with NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation in 2023 to increase flag football participation, programming and training across college campuses in the intramural and club sports arenas.

The partnership is a continuation of RCX’s commitment to equip sports leagues with the resources, training and tools they need to promote accessible and inclusivity in the sport. 

Learn how RCX is offering women’s flag scholarships beginning in 2024

"Not only is flag football growing rapidly across in the youth sports arena, but this collaboration also gives college students who want to continue their football playing careers past high school a chance to get back on the field," said Vincent, Sr. "Flag football is poised for even greater expansion as the cornerstone of the NFL's domestic and international participation and development strategies."