The CFL’s American Expansion Era: An ill-fated attempt to bring Canadian Football to America

The CFL kicked off its first season in 1958 with nine teams. Those teams played in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Saskatchewan, Calgary, BC, Hamilton, Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa. In 2021, those same cities featured CFL franchises.

Although the same nine cities feature football teams now, the CFL has had additional teams come and go over the last half a century-plus. In fact, 15 teams have come and gone from the CFL. Seven of those teams were a part of the CFL’s ill-timed American expansion era of the mid-1990s. Many of those teams are gone and forgotten about.

The Grey Cup is the biggest betting event in the CFL and punters are growing in excitement for the league’s final in December. Ahead of the Grey Cup, you can get more information about online sports betting in Canada before wagering on the biggest game of the CFL campaign.

Who are the defunct CFL American teams?

The CFL may be the Canadian Football League, but it has had teams situated in the United States at one time. Obviously, competing in cities and regions in which there are NFL and NCAA Football teams made it difficult for these America-based CFL teams to survive. That is one reason these teams no longer exist.

The league attempted American expansion which resulted in each of those franchise folding. The American expansion era lasted from 1993 to 1995, a short three-season timeframe that ended horribly. Seven teams made up the American expansion era.

The league’s American teams included Baltimore Stallions, Birmingham Barracudas, Las Vegas Posse, Memphis Mad Dogs, Sacramento Gold Miners, and Shreveport Pirates. The Gold Miners later moved to Texas and became the San Antonio Texans. Looking at the list of teams, it is easy to see that the CFL went into, an at the time, former NFL hotbed dying for a football team.

The re-birth of Baltimore football

Baltimore had lost the Colts to Indianapolis in 1984. The city had cried out for an NFL expansion team ever since the Colts left, but didn’t receive a new franchise until the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore for the 1996 season – becoming the Ravens.

The Baltimore Stallions were the predecessors to the Ravens and their success likely influenced the relocation of the Browns to the city. The Stallions were a success from day one. Playing in 1994 and 1995, the Stallions appeared in the Grey Cup in both seasons. Balitmore lost the Grey Cup in 1994 to the BC Lions and won it a year later against the Calgary Stampeders.

Just a few months after the Baltimore Stallions won the 1995 Grey Cup, Modell took the Ravens to The City of Firsts. The Stallions averaged attendances of around 30,000 fans per home game. Seeing the success of a CFL team, Modell and the NFL saw potential in the city.

Baltimore isn’t the only American city to have NFL success following a CFL once calling the same city home. Las Vegas was home to the Posse in 1994. The Raiders moved from Oakland to Las Vegas in 2020 where they have had a rabid fanbase.

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