How to Make the CFL USA Work This Time and 15 Places Where It Could Thrive

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How to Make the CFL USA Work This Time and 15 Places Where It Could Thrive
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images
A CFL game between Calgary and Montreal

Two decades ago the Canadian Football League began experimenting with teams in the United States.  After only three seasons, the experiment fell flat.  However, rumors about the CFL expanding to Detroit/Windsor or Upstate New York surface from time to time. 

I think that it's time to look at CFL USA again.  There's just too much money and too many football aficionados in the United States not to.  With the proliferation of sports-only channels courtesy of FOX and Time Warner Cable, getting a TV contract wouldn't be hard.

There are some reasons CFL USA went the way of the dodo, but they can be remedied.  The primary reason was the poor placement of the seven franchises, which were located in Baltimore, Birmingham, Las Vegas, Memphis, San Antonio, Sacramento and Shreveport.  None of these cities had NFL teams (and only one currently does), largely due to the fact that they were small markets and/or had inadequate facilities.

None of these teams were in markets anywhere close to the Canadian border, nor did they have large Canadian enclaves.  Quite the opposite, in fact: Some of the expansion franchises were placed in areas hostile to foreigners of any stripe, let alone Canadians.  The CFL had considered more hospitable places such as Columbus, Hartford and Milwaukee, but made the mistake of reneging on those cities.

Add to that, many of the CFL USA teams' front offices didn't know anything about Canadian football, and it's hard to believe CFL USA lasted three minutes, let alone three years. 

The first step to success with CFL USA is placing teams in the right cities with the right men in the front office. The other problems with CFL USA could be solved by running it independently of the CFL.  Play games on Tuesday and Wednesday to avoid high school and college football, rather than the CFL's standard Thursday-Friday-Saturday slate.  

This article operates on the assumption that a CFL-specific venue will never be built in the United States. To be honest, even most current CFL stadiums either have a non-CFL tenant, such as a university sharing the stadium, or were built for a purpose other than the CFL.  

While some games could be played in NFL or college football venues, it would probably be a better idea to instead use home grounds closer to the CFL's 20,000-seat minimum, as long as a CFL field can fit.  That would allow the use of MLS stadiums on off-days.  A CFL field's dimensions are actually closer to an MLS field than an American football field.  

BC Place already serves as a combo soccer/CFL stadium; the new Frank Clair Stadium will as well in the future.  Besides, 20,000 is 17,000 more than the CFL's Las Vegas Posse drew on average.

Though neither MLS nor American football fields fit CFL dimensions perfectly (a fact that was largely ignored in the first CFL USA expansion), a number of these stadiums could easily be modified to fit the CFL standard.  I have included the dimensions in yards of the playing surface of each of the MLS or American football venues that could be possible targets.  

And back to picking sites: The CFL was too quick to dismiss large American markets, particularly those with large Canadian populations, mostly because of fears of competition with the NFL.  Considering the astronomical price of NFL tickets these days, though, I find it a worthy proposition to go head-to-head in certain large Midwestern or Northeastern markets.

In the following slides are 15 cities I think the CFL should consider if it wants to give expansion in America another go.  Included in each slide are potential venues, as well as market size and Canadian-American population.  It goes without saying that none of the seven cities CFL USA first tried appear on this list; most are Northeastern and Midwestern cities, but a few are cities with a significant population of Canadian snowbirds.

Demographic data from these slides courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau.         

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