More football in Portland?

With the National Basketball Association having the developmental league, better known as the D League, and Major League Baseball having a 3-tiered minor league system in place to develop young talent, what is the NFL’s version of this? Well, other than college, the AFL and the CFL, there isn’t a league dedicated to developing NFL talentThat may be about to change. The Fall Experimental Football League—or the FXFL—is a new league that is angling to serve as a developmental stage for aspiring NFL players to hone their skills in hopes of one day making an NFL roster. As of now, there is no official affiliation with the NFL, but the FXFL hopes that one develops.

The problem with the current system is that the NCAA, AFL and CFL all have different rules from each other and the NFL. Though it is still football, these other leagues are not specifically geared toward developing players to play in the NFL.

Not only will the FXFL develop players, but it also plans on developing new rules, coaches and referees as well. According to a recent press release on the FXFL’s website, “The FXFL will operate as a true developmental league in every facet, even serving as a testing ground for proposed rule revisions. The league will poll fans this summer on whether to eliminate the punt and point after try during games. The FXFL will also provide additional opportunities for coaches and serve as a training module for prospective NFL referees.”

Also noted in the previous quote is how the league plans to rely on fan opinion for whether or not to include certain rules or parts of the game, such as kickoffs and extra points. This, coupled with implementing modern interactive technology to enhance game day experiences for fans, is just one way the FXFL plans to succeed where so many other professional football leagues have failed.

Another important piece the league feels will make it successful is that they plan to create partnerships with existing MLS and Minor League Baseball owners to use smaller stadiums, rather than paying the exorbitant fees associated with major arenas and stadiums.

As far as the players are concerned, there will also be rules for eligibility that they must meet as well. The same FXFL press release mentioned earlier states, “Only those players who are less than two years removed from college will be eligible for the league’s draft, which takes place in September following the conclusion of NFL training camps. Once acquired, players will be allowed a maximum of three playing seasons in the FXFL.”

Though the exact reasoning for these restrictions is still unclear, it can be speculated that these limits are put in place to help ensure that players don’t spend their lives chasing a dream they are unable to obtain, and to get fresher recruits in while doing so.

One major difference from the NFL will be that the seasons will be much shorter and won’t take place on the weekends. The plan is to start the 2014 season with six teams who will play eight games throughout the months of October and November. Though this occurs during the early phases on the NFL and college seasons, the FXFL games are slotted to take place on Wednesday nights, so as to not interfere with the big dogs.

So what does this all mean for Portland? Well, as it stands now, it looks like Portland will be one of the six cities selected to host a team. However, the league won’t make an official announcement until an owner or ownership group is in place. A recent Oregonian article quoted FXFL founder Brian Woods, “Portland is a great city, I think it’s an outstanding sports market and I think there’s a lot of sports fans there. Professional football will generate a lot of interest, and I think we’ll be quite successful in that market.”

And Woods is probably right. Oregon’s passion for the Blazers, Timbers, Ducks, Beavers, Winterhawks and Vikings proves that creating a successful league in the Portland area is not only doable, but that there is a high probability it will be quite successful—especially in the football deprived metro area.

Though nothing is official, there are a few locations in the Portland area that could host Portland’s new developmental team. Since the league’s business model is dependent upon using smaller venues to host its teams, it’s a pretty safe bet that they won’t be playing in the Moda Center. A safer bet would be that the league would play at Ron Tonkin Field or Providence Park. The location, however, will largely be determined by the owner or ownership group of the team.

Wherever it is played, however it is played and whoever is playing doesn’t matter. The only thing of importance is that NFL-style football will finally be making its way to Oregon. In a deprived market such as Portland, there is no doubt that the fans will show up, the money will roll in and hopefully the future stars of the NFL will rise out of Oregon’s new team.