International Simulation Football League
|Current season, competition or edition:|
ISFL season 39
|Formerly||National Simulation Football League|
|Founded||May 1, 2016 (38 years ago)|
|Inaugural season||2016 (S1)|
|No. of teams||14|
|Most titles||Orange County Otters|
|Developmental Simulation Football League|
The International Simulation Football League (ISFL), formerly the National Simulation Football League (NSFL), is a professional American football league consisting of 14 teams, divided equally between the National Simulation Football Conference (NSFC) and the American Simulation Football Conference (ASFC). The ISFL's 16-week regular season runs from late September to late December, with each team playing 16 games. Following the conclusion of the regular season, the top three teams from each conference advance to the playoffs, a single-elimination tournament culminating in the Ultimus Bowl, which is usually held in late January, and is played between the champions of the NSFC and ASFC. The current ISFL champions are the ISFL, who won Ultimus Bowl XXIII by defeating the Austin Copperheads to win their second ISFL title.
The ISFL was formed in 2016 with six teams, before expanding a year later to include two more teams (in Las Vegas Legion and Philadelphia Liberty) and further expansion the following year to form a developmental league, the DSFL, which directly feeds into the league via the annual draft. The league expanded further in 2030, to include two more teams (in Austin Copperheads and Chicago Butchers, then further expanding in 2037 (S22) to include Sarasota Sailfish and Honolulu Hahalua). Both teams began competing in 2037 (S22). The ISFL's executive officer is the commissioner, who has broad authority in governing the league, though the Owner and a committee of executives also contribute to the overall governance of the league.
2017 (S2) Expansion
Philadelphia Liberty was able to win five games in their inaugural season and quickly established themselves as a viable franchise reaching the playoffs in just their second year of existence. The Liberty have made 5 playoff appearances in total and won an Ultimus Championship in 2022 (S7).
Las Vegas Legion was not so lucky, as they struggled to get off at the start. Some internal drama, spurred a change in management and leadership leading to a re-brand in 2021 (S6) to New Orleans Second Line. The change in leadership sparked New Orleans Second Line as they were able to secure a Ultimus cup in 2024 (S9)
2030 (S15) Expansion
The second expansion in the International Simulation Football League happened in 2030 (S15). This brought two more teams to the International Simulation Football League. The Austin Copperheads were added to the American Simulation Football Conference and the Chicago Butchers were added to the National Simulation Football Conference, to begin competing in 2031 (S16).
The two teams took wildly different approaches, as they were looking to build something. Chicago Butchers went all in at the time of the expansion draft, going with a win-now strategy. This appeared to work, as they had a very successful 2031 (S16), winning their division and heading to the playoffs. Unfortunately, they were unable to make any moves in the playoffs. After the first two seasons, Chicago Butchers saw a downturn, due to some bad management and some bad luck.
Austin Copperheads took a different strategy, as their motto was "We Build Houses". They built from the entry draft and not so much from the 2030 (S15) expansion draft. However, their first couple of seasons were really rough, including an inaugural campaign of 0-13. Eventually, they were able to get their team in their prime and ultimately won an Ultimus Cup in the 2035 (S20) season.
2037 (S22) Expansion
Honolulu Hahalua joined the ASFC becoming the first team to be off the mainland of North America.
Sarasota Sailfish joined the NSFC to represent the great state of Florida.
2040 (S25) Expansion
The league continued to see expansion. Many cities worldwide submitted proposals to join the league, however, Head Office limited expansion to 2 teams.
Berlin Fire Salamanders joined the NSFC becoming the first European ISFL team.
New York Silverbacks joined the ASFC giving the "Big Apple" an ISFL franchise.
The ISFL consists of 14 clubs divided into two conferences of 6 teams in each. During the regular season, each team is allowed a maximum of 53 players on its roster; only 46 of these may be active (eligible to play) on game days. Each team can also have a 10-player practice squad separate from its main roster – though this is effectively only used to retain the rights of suspended players – and can "send down" players to the DSFL while retaining the player's contract rights. A player can only be in the DSFL for a maximum of four seasons.
Each ISFL club is granted a franchise, the league's authorization for the team to operate in its home city. This franchise covers 'Home Territory' (the 75 miles surrounding the city limits, or, if the team is within 100 miles of another league city, half the distance between the two cities) and 'Home Marketing Area' (Home Territory plus the rest of the state the club operates in, as well as the area the team operates its training camp in for the duration of the camp). Each ISFL member has the exclusive right to host professional football games inside its Home Territory and the exclusive right to advertise, promote, and host events in its Home Marketing Area. In cases where multiple teams operate in the same city or the same state (e.g. California), they share the rights to the city's Home Territory and the state's Home Marketing Area, respectively.
Every ISFL team is based in North America. Although most teams (DSFL included) are based in the United States, there are exceptions. The Yellowknife Wraiths of the NSFC are based in Canada's Northwestern Territories, and the Tijuana Luchadores of the DSFL are based in Mexico.
The ISFL season format consists of a four-week preseason, a seventeen-week regular season (each team plays 16 games), and a six-team single-elimination playoff culminating in the Ultimus Bowl, the league's championship game.
Each ISFL team is required to schedule four preseason games, two of which must be at its home stadium. Preseason games are exhibition matches and do not count towards records or regular-season totals. Because the preseason does not count towards standings, teams generally do not focus on winning games; instead, they are used by coaches to evaluate their teams and by players to show their performance, both to their current team and to other teams if they get cut.
Currently, each team faces every team in their division twice, one at home, once away, and each team in the other division once, two at home and three away, or vice-versa, over the 13-game regular season schedule. All ISFL games for a given match week are played on the same day.
Following the conclusion of the regular season, a six-team single elimination tournament, the ISFL Playoffs, is held. The second and third-placed division teams face each other in the wildcard round, with the division winners earning a bye to the conference championship game. The wildcard winners face the top seed from their division in the conference game. The winners of these games then proceed to the Ultimus Bowl, for the ISFL Championship. All playoff games are held to the stadium of the team with the better regular season record.
Trophies and awards
Since inception, the International Simulation Football League has used the Ultimus Trophy to honor its champion each season. A new Ultimus Trophy is issued to each year's champion, who maintains permanent control of it. The Trophies are made by Tiffany & Co. out of sterling silver and are worth anywhere from US$25,000 to US$300,000. Additionally, each player on the winning team, as well as coaches and personnel, are awarded Ultimus rings to commemorate their victory. The winning team chooses the company that makes the rings; each ring design varies, with the ISFL mandating certain ring specifications (which have a degree of room for deviation), in addition to requiring the Ultimus logo be on at least one side of the ring. The losing team are also awarded rings, which must be no more than half as valuable as the winners' rings, but those are almost never worn.
The conference champions also receive trophies for their achievement. The champions of the NSFC used to receive the Glacies Trophy, while the ASFC champions would receive the Solis Trophy. These trophies have now been reverted to their original names of NSCF Championship and ASFC Championship, respectively. Players on conference winning teams also receive a conference championship ring.
Player and coach awards
The ISFL recognizes a number of awards for its players and coaches at its annual ISFL Awards Show. The most prestigious awards are the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award, and Most Outstanding Player, decided by the Awards Committee and the ISFL Player Association respectively.
Another prestigious award is the Most Dedicated Member award, which recognizes a player's off-field work in addition to his on-field performance. The General Manager of the Year award – almost always shared by a team's management duo – is the highest award for non-playing personnel.
On occasion, organisations affiliated with the ISFL also give out weekly awards, or awards in recognition of a player's performance in a specific game, though this has not been common.
Once per year, the ISFL holds a draft of college and developmental league players. The draft length varies, but is typically at least four rounds, with each of the eight clubs getting one pick in each round. The draft order for non-playoff teams is determined by regular-season record; among playoff teams, teams are first ranked by the furthest round of the playoffs they reached, and then are ranked by regular-season record. For example, any team that reached the Ultimus Bowl will be given a higher pick than any team that lost in the conference championships. The Ultimus Bowl champion always drafts last, and the losing team from the Ultimus Bowl always drafts next-to-last. All potential draftees must write an application to the ISFL – and be approved – prior to draft day to be eligible. By declaring for the draft, they also forego any remaining college eligibility.
Clubs are required to make their selection within a certain period of time, the exact time depending on which round the pick is made in. If they fail to do so on time, the clubs behind them can begin to select their players in order, but they do not lose the pick outright. Selected players are only allowed to negotiate contracts with the team that picked them, but are not obligated to sign. In a case where a player refuses to sign, a club may choose to trade the player's rights to another team. Clubs may also trade away picks for future draft picks if they wish. If a player refuses to sign a contract, they are not allowed to participate in team or league training events. After an entire season has passed without a player signing a contract, they are treated as a regular free agent.
Under the current ISFL rules, all drafted players must be offered a minimum one-year deal worth at least $500,000 per season. There is no upper limit to contract value, other than salary cap limitations. Players who were draft eligible but not picked in the draft are free to sign with any club after the draft has been completed.
The ISFL may also operate other drafts in addition to the ISFL draft. For example, the league may hold an expansion draft, the most recent happening in 2037 when the Sarasota Sailfish and Honolulu Hahalua began play as expansion teams. The ISFL does not actively maintain a protocol for a disaster draft, though contingency plans have been discussed.
Free agents in the International Simulation Football League are divided into inactive free agents (players whose contracts have expired but have not acknowledged attempts to negotiate a new contract in fourteen days), and unrestricted free agents. An accrued season is defined as "six or more regular-season games on a club's active/inactive, reserved/injured or reserve/physically unable to perform lists".
Inactive free agents may be auto-renewed by the current team within 24 hours of the contract expiry date, otherwise, they become full inactives. Full inactives can be signed by any team at the contract minimum for their level of play, on a first-come-first-served basis.
Unrestricted free agents are free to sign with any club, and no compensation is owed if they sign with a different club.
- "ISFL Scheduling Procedure". NSFLWiki. November 19, 2019. Retrieved November 19, 2019.