The World Football League was an American football league that played in 1974 and part of 1975.
The WFL had several important rules differences from the National Football League of that era:
- Touchdowns were worth 7 points, instead of 6.
- Conversions, called "action points", could only be scored via a run or pass play (as opposed to by kick as in other football leagues), and were worth one point.
- Kickoffs were from the 30-yard line instead of the 40. Prior to 1974, NFL teams kicked off from the 40; starting in 1974, the NFL moved its kickoffs back to the 35. Twenty years later, the kickoff line was pushed back to the 30.
- Receivers needed only one foot in bounds for a legal pass reception, instead of two feet in the NFL then and now. College and high school football have always used the one-foot rule.
- Bump-and-run pass coverage was outlawed once a receiver was 3 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. The NFL later adopted this rule, with a 5-yard bump zone.
- The goalposts were placed at the end line (the back of the end zone). At that time, college football goalposts were at the end line, but the NFL had its goalposts at the goal line from 1933 through 1973. Staring with the 1974 season, the NFL also moved its posts back to the end line.
- Missed field goals were returned to the line of scrimmage or the 20-yard line, whichever was farther from the goal line. The NFL also adopted this rule for its 1974 season, and moved the spot back to the point of the kick in 1994. Prior to this rule, missed field goals were (if unreturned) touchbacks, with the ball placed at the 20-yard line.
- A player in motion was allowed to move toward the line of scrimmage before the snap, as long as he was behind the line of scrimmage at the snap. This rule has never been used at any level of outdoor American football, but was (and still is) part of Canadian football. Later, this rule was adopted in arena football.
- Punt returners were prohibited from using the fair catch, although the covering team could not come within 5 yards of the kick returner until he caught the ball. This rule also came from Canadian football, which still uses it. The XFL also used the so-called "halo rule."
- Penalties for offensive holding and ineligible receiver downfield were 10 yards, instead of 15. Several years later, these became 10-yard penalties at all levels of football. Still later, the ineligible receiver penalty was changed to 5 yards (with loss of down).
- Its original overtime system was like nothing used in any form of American football before or since; it was far more similar to the system long used in international soccer. Overtime in the regular season was one fixed 15-minute period, divided into two halves of 7-1/2 minutes, each starting with a kickoff by one of the teams. The complete overtime was always played; there was no "sudden death" feature. In 1975, the WFL changed its overtime to the 15-minute sudden-death period then (as now) used in the NFL.
- Limited (or no) Pre-Season Games. In 1974 and 1975, NFL teams played six pre-season games and 14 regular season games (which was changed in 1978 to the current four pre-season and 16 regular season games). In contrast, the WFL's 1974 schedule called for 20 regular season games and no pre-season games; in 1975, it was 18 regular season games and two pre-season games.
- Summertime Football. The NFL's regular season started on September 15th in 1974 and on September 21st in 1975; the WFL's regular season started on July 10th in 1974 and on July 26th in 1975.
- Weeknight Football (1974). While NFL games were played on weekends, the WFL's 1974 schedule called for Wednesday night football (with a Thursday night national TV game). This scheduling format was abandoned in 1975.
EASTERN DIVISION: Florida Blazers 14-6-0, Charlotte Hornets 10-10-0, Philadelphia Bell 9-11-0, Jacksonville Sharks 4-10-0
CENTRAL DIVISION: Memphis Southmen 17-3-0, Birmingham Americans 15-5-0, Chicago Fire 7-13-0, Detroit Wheels 1-13-0
WESTERN DIVISION: Southern California Sun 13-7-0, Hawaiians 9-11-0, Portland Storm 7-12-1, Shrevport Steamer 7-12-1
Notes: (1) Jacksonville and Detroit folded after 14 games; each week thereafter, the teams that had games against those teams played each other. (2) Shreveport Steamer began season as Houston Texans. (3) Charlotte Hornets began season as New York Stars; upon moving to Charlotte, played one game as Charlotte Stars, and remaining games as Hornets. (4) Chicago forfeited its 20th game to Philadelphia.
Playoffs: In the original WFL schedule, the three division champions plus one wild-card were to qualify, culminating in a "World Bowl" on the evening after Thanksgiving (at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla.). Then, with financial problems mounting, it was announced that (1) the team with the best record would be declared the champion; (2) no, three teams (Memphis, Birmingham, and Florida) would play-off (thus leaving West champ Southern California out); (3) no, eight (!) of the remaining 10 teams would qualify; and, finally, (4) the top two teams in each division would qualify, seeded entirely by won-lost record. This last format was followed, except that Charlotte said it couldn't participate due to a lack of funds, resulting in Philadelphia being selected as the East's second qualifier (a situation which caused one sarcastic sportswriter to assert that the league chose its playoff teams by placing collect calls to each and then declaring any that accepted the call to be a playoff team).
QUARTERFINAL PLAYOFFS (Wednesday, November 20, 1974 and Thursday, November 21, 1974):
Hawaiians defeated Southern California, 32-14 (@ Anaheim, Nov. 20th); Florida defeated Philadelphia, 18-3 (@ Orlando, Nov. 21st);
SEMIFINAL PLAYOFFS (Wednesday, November 27, 1974 and Friday, November 29, 1974):
Birmingham defated Hawaiians, 22-19 (@ Birmingham, Nov. 27th); Florida defeated Memphis, 18-15 (@ Memphis, Nov. 29th).
WORLD BOWL (Thursday, December 5, 1974, at Legion Field, Birmingham, Ala.):
Birmingham Americans 22, Florida Blazers 21
(Birmingham led, 22-0, after three quarters, on three touchdowns and one successful action point; Florida rallied for three fourth-quarter touchdowns, but failed on all three of its action point attempts)
- Birmingham was declared the 1975 champions at the time the league folded.