How good is the X-League?

How good is the X-League?
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How good is the X-League? It’s a question I found myself asking in light of a recent global ranking of American football teams.

This follows on from a collaboration between American Football International and Inside Sport Japan.

They co-produced a list of the top 225 teams outside of the US and Canada. Firstly it was disappointing to note that only 4 British teams made it into the top 200.

Defending BritBowl Champs the London Warriors were ranked highest at 52. Their opponents that day Tamworth are ranked 84th.

X-League dominance

The top end of the list is dominated by X-League teams. In fact the ranking has the top six, and eight of the first ten teams named being from the X-League.

Can the Japanese league really be that much of a powerhouse? Has the fact that the collaboration was with ‘Inside Sport Japan‘ affected the rankings? I could not say, because I knew nothing about the X-League. So what is Japanese American football all about?

X-League History

The X-League is the oldest non-college Ball league in the world outside of Northern America. The X-League was founded in 1971.

However, reigning champions the Fujitsu Frontiers just won the 73rd Rice Bowl. Meaning that whatever the league or format, a formalised American football championship game has been played in Japan since the late 1940’s.

Let’s put that into context. We had Britbowl 33 this past year. The GFL, perhaps the strongest European league, just had German Bowl 41.

The NFL is celebrating its’ 100th year and the CFL has not long passed the sixty year mark. (Although of course the game has been played much longer in both nations).

Where does Japan rank?

The X-League plays to NCAA college rules. Although they do have shortened quarters earlier in the season (12 minutes). So where does that leave them in global positioning?

Do we really believe the Warriors or say a successful team like the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns  of the GFL as an example wouldn’t give Japanese teams plenty to handle.

Well the Japanese league does have more evidence to point to. The International Federation of American Football has held five world championships since 1999.

As you might expect these have been dominated by the US, who are the three time defending champions. Japan however won in 1999 & 2003 as well as being runners up in 2007 & 2015.

These small group tournaments were reached by competitors winning regional zones so European teams could have come through the IFAF Europe pathway.

It’s a challenge

Taking all of that into account it seems reasonable for X-League teams to be highly ranked.

We can never know how our teams would fare in a direct comparison though as they do not play each other.

At the very least the list may be good for sparking debate and issuing a challenge. British teams may look to rise up the top 225. A good starting point would be to get on the top 20 radar in the coaches’ polls too.

If this list becomes an annual tradition it is going to be very interesting to see how it develops over time.

Banner Image: X-League action. Image from japantravel.com

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