Is Arena Football Smaller Than the NFL?

An Overview of Arena Football

Arena football, also known as indoor football, is a fast-paced and high-scoring variation of American football. Played within a smaller indoor arena, this thrilling sport has gained popularity over the years. However, when it comes to comparing arena football with the widely popular National Football League (NFL), there are several key differences to consider.

The Size of the Field

One primary distinction between arena football and the NFL lies in the size of the playing field. In arena football, teams compete on an indoor field that measures just 85 feet wide and 50 yards long. This compact size creates a more intense atmosphere where every yard counts. On the other hand, in traditional NFL games, players battle it out on massive outdoor fields measuring 160 feet wide and 100 yards long.

Differences in Team Size

Another significant difference between these two versions of American football is team size. An arena football squad typically consists of eight players per side: three offensive linemen protecting their quarterback while four skill position players run routes downfield or carry out plays near scrimmage lines – one player serves as both kicker and linebacker simultaneously.

Comparatively, an NFL team operates with eleven players per side: five offensive linemen providing protection for their quarterback while six skill position players execute designed plays – specialized athletes handle kicking duties or focus solely on defense depending on their role within specific game strategies.

Rules and Gameplay Variations

Despite sharing similar fundamental rules with regards to scoring touchdowns or field goals, there are noteworthy variations between arena football and its larger counterpart in terms of gameplay rules:

1) Wall boundaries – One unique feature exclusive to indoor arenas is that they have walls surrounding the playing area rather than open sidelines seen in outdoor stadiums during an NFL match.

2) Rebound nets – These walls come equipped with rebound nets, meaning that balls can bounce off them during play. This leads to exciting and unexpected changes of possession, making arena football an action-packed spectacle.

3) Clock management – Arena football has a shorter game clock compared to the NFL. Halves in indoor games last 30 minutes instead of the traditional 45 minutes in outdoor matches, leading to faster-paced gameplay with more frequent scoring opportunities.

4) Special teams rules – Another difference lies within special teams plays. In arena football, kickoffs are replaced by “deuces,” where a successful kickoff through small goalposts earns two points for the kicking team. Conversely, extra point kicks are taken from much closer distances than in NFL games.

Popularity and Fan Base

While the National Football League enjoys immense popularity worldwide as one of America’s most-watched sports leagues, it is important to acknowledge that arena football has carved out its own niche following over time. Arena Football League (AFL) franchises have developed dedicated fan bases who appreciate the fast-paced nature and high-scoring excitement unique to this variant of American football.

However, due to various factors such as media coverage limitations and differences in scale compared to the NFL’s massive operations budget and widespread marketing efforts – including incredibly popular events like Super Bowl Sunday – arena football remains less prominent in terms of overall viewership when comparing these two forms of professional American tackle football.


In summary, while both arena football and the NFL offer thrilling versions of America’s favorite sport, there are notable distinctions between them. From field size and team composition to rule variations and fan base scale—each aspect contributes towards creating diverse experiences for players and spectators alike.

Whether you enjoy cheering on full-scale outdoor battles or prefer witnessing fast-paced indoor competitions with unique features like rebound nets or deuces instead of kickoffs—the choice ultimately comes down to personal preference. So, the next time someone asks if arena football is smaller than the NFL, remember that size isn’t everything when it comes to the excitement and entertainment value of these two extraordinary forms of American football.