Overview of the IFAF Flag Football World Championships

By Stephen Spiewak | Posted 6/4/2016

Flag football continues to grow around the world.

Many football fans don't realize that the sport, which is played in 71 countries on six continents as wide-ranging as New Zealand, Israel, South Korea, Nigeria and Brazil, has held world championships events for as far back as 2002.

In 2016, the tournament takes place in the Bahamas on Sept. 8-11. Here's a breakdown of the event and its history.

Where are the World Championships?

The International American Football Federation (IFAF) World Flag Championships are the largest international flag football tournaments in the world.

Men's and women's teams from around the globe compete every two years with gold, silver and bronze medals awarded to the top three nations.

Who runs the tournament?

IFAF is responsible for selecting the host site and overseeing the tournament. Locally, a tournament committee handles logistics and makes sure the tournament runs smoothly.

Have the World Championships been held in the Bahamas before?

No. Previous hosts include Italy, Sweden, Canada and Austria. The 2018 host has yet to be announced.

What countries participate?

Most teams in the tournament qualified through regional tournaments. Here are the teams who will be participating in the 2016 World Championships.

Women’s: Austria, Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Panama, United States

Men’s: Austria, Bahamas, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Guatemala, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Mexico, New Zealand, Panama, United States

Who are the defending champions?

The United States men defeated Mexico, 40-14, to reclaim the gold medal in 2014 in Grosseto, Italy. Austria had won the gold in 2012.

The U.S. women lost to Canada, 32-21, on that side of the bracket two years after losing to Mexico in the championship game as well.

How does the U.S. select its team?

As the national governing body, USA Football selects and manages all U.S. National Teams for competition. USA Football named David Fried, a member of the National Hall of Fame for flag football, the head coach for both the men’s and women’s squads.

Fried then took the lead on selecting players. There is an application process where players submit video and credentials. Fried also does his own scouting and relies on his extensive network throughout the flag and women's football communities for player recommendations.

Where do flag football players come from?

There are adult flag football leagues throughout the country. Many National Team players participate in such leagues.

How is flag football different from regular football?

Flag football is non-contact, 5-on-5 competition in which everyone is an eligible receiver. Blocking is not allowed. Helmets and pads are not required, so it’s an easier and more affordable game to play.

So it's like 7on7?

There are similarities. However, 7on7 has two more people on the field for each team. Also, 7on7 does not use flags and sometimes requires helmets.

Where can I follow the World Championships?

USA Football will have complete coverage of both the men's and women's journey through the tournament. Check back throughout the summer for additional news about the team.

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