SFL Finalizes Divisional Alignment for Season 22

by Cameron Irvine

The Simulation Football League will enter the Winter 2024 season - Season 22 - with 25 strong organizations split into five, five-team divisions with competition beginning in January 2024. Each team will play their divisional opponents once (two home and two away games total) and play two other teams from each division, (one home and one away per division total) regardless of prior divisional alignment. 12 teams will make the playoffs once more to fight their way to the Championship Game.

The Pacific gains the San Diego Mavericks, who will play in the same division as their Southern California counterparts - the Los Angeles Lycans - for the first time. The move will also reunite the Mavericks with rival Portland.

The South hauls the Louisiana Revolution. Co-Owned by Gerald Smith, the broadcasting duo of the aforementioned Smith and Mexico City Co-Owner Mike Daggs will turn these friends into division foes.

The East reunites some old divisional rivalries, with Carolina and Charleston heading back down South to take on old foes Atlanta, Florida and Jacksonville.

The North is comprised of last season's small three team division - Canton, Motor City and Queen City - but gets some gusto with Baltimore and D.C. inserted into the fray.

The new-look Central includes all teams from landlocked portions of the country after the losses of Las Vegas and Sioux Falls to the league's geographical footprint. The additions include the Arizona Scorpions - winners of the dormant West Division last season - and the Denver Nightwings. Minnesota - the Central winner in Season 21 - met Arizona in the Wild Card round in one of the top playoff games of the season. Indianapolis Co-Owner Chad Roland and Arizona's Co-Owner Eddie Gauge - hosts of the SFL show 'The Streets Are Talking' will be division rivals for the first time.

The revised divisional alignment comes on the heels of Las Vegas' announcement that the team would be folding and did so last week. The Fury organization joined the league as an expansion team in Season 11 and compiled a 68-71 all-time record, winning back-to-back first round playoff games in Season 16 and 17.

"I appreciate owners Jon Bond and Tony Benefield for their efforts to build the Las Vegas Fury franchise over the years," said Commissioner Cameron Irvine. "It was a strong brand, the team always had a strong identity on the field and some great names played in Vegas over the last five years. It's never easy to lose teams, but both Vegas and the SFL evaluated the options and the Fury decided not to pursue a sale. The league will pursue expansion to get back to our record-high 28 teams at a later date."

Vegas is the first franchise to truly fold in the SFL since Season 7 when the league contracted. The first franchise sold - San Antonio - was re-branded as the Denver Nightwings in Season 9.

The SFL conducted retention reports this off-season on all 27 of its Season 21 franchises, to see how many players were lost to retirement and free agency over the last three years. High retention is always attributed to locker room morale and team comradery, not always to wins and losses - high retention is even harder to achieve on teams that don't win as often as others. 

Amongst teams who have at least five off-seasons since 2020, Baltimore, Arizona, Florida, Vancouver and Fort Worth led the way among franchises that have routinely made the playoffs during that stretch. Atlanta, Portland, Louisiana, Los Angeles and Tulsa had the harder job - but equally as successful job - of high retention despite less wins and playoff appearances on the field.

The league is electing to not renew Sioux Falls' League Affiliation Agreement for the Winter 2024 season. Sioux Falls compiled a 115-96 record over 16 seasons after joining the league as an expansion team back in Season 6. The team made back-to-back Championship Games in Seasons 14 and 15 and went 2-2 in the playoffs since.

"The situation off the field in Sioux Falls no longer lived up to league standards," Irvine said. "It was time for a change there. They were once a very active organization but there was no longer any synergy there between league and team leadership. Sparrows ownership is seventh all-time in wins right now in league history, so they did some things right. For us, it's about growth and progress, not stagnation for the sake of the norm.

Our two losses this off-season ranked in the bottom half of retention and we know - as a league - there's a lot more we can do to engage with customers and make them feel at home when they are in their locker rooms. I'm just one man and our best organizations are the ones who share in the league's passion for people, engagement and unique experiences - not being the smartest coach or winning the most games - first."

The league will announce the Season 22 Schedule in the coming weeks.