The Arena Football League will play an 18-game regular season in 2011.
The change from a 16-game slate was approved at the league’s board of directors meetings last week in Phoenix. Teams will have two bye weeks and have the option of playing two preseason games, one home and one away.
The AFL has played a 16-game schedule since 2003.
“A couple of years ago we talked about the possibility (of playing 18 games) in arenafootball2,” said Spokane Shock general manager Adam Nebeker.
“With the economics of the new league, it makes it a more appealing prospect.”
The AFL is expected to have 19 teams next season, up from 15 in 2010 when the league returned from a one-year absence. With 19 teams, at least one team will be idle on the first weekend of the season. The four new additions are based in San Jose, Kansas City, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Alabama’s franchise has relocated to Georgia and it’s possible a couple others might be on the move.
Divisional realignment appears to be in order, but nothing has been finalized. San Jose looks to be a natural fit in the West Division with Spokane, Utah and Arizona. Kansas City is also a possibility and Seattle, mentioned as a possible landing place for Oklahoma City’s franchise, could enter the picture.
AFL training camps will probably open in mid-February with season openers in early March. Spokane’s first game of the 2010 season was on April 2. The regular season will end in mid-July with the ArenaBowl expected to be played on the first weekend of August. That means the AFL season would essentially be completed before NFL preseason games begin.
With the longer regular season, teams will probably be allowed to carry additional players. Teams currently have 23-man rosters with 20 active on game day.
The AFL playoffs will likely remain at eight teams, four from each conference.
Player salaries ($400 per game, with three “marketing players” earning $1,000) are expected to stay pretty much the same, but there may be some procedural changes regarding marketing players. For example, last season teams settled on three marketing players, but couldn’t make adjustments if the player was injured or left for another league.
Nebeker said the league is studying the idea of a pre-determined site for the ArenaBowl. Orlando is among those bidding to host the event. Nebeker said he “doesn’t anticipate” Spokane bidding for the ArenaBowl.
Surgery for Vijil
Shock receiver Raul Vijil will undergo surgery Wednesday to fix a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee. Vijil was injured during the Milwaukee game June 26. Vijil also damaged his MCL, but he said that has pretty much healed.
“It’s unfortunate that it happened, but you just have to roll with it,” Vijil said. “It was healing and healing, but it just didn’t feel stable.
“I’ll have the surgery and rehab it and see how it feels. I have a lot of thinking to do.”
It typically takes a minimum of 6-9 months to recover following ACL surgery. The 2011 season opener will probably be in early March, roughly seven months away.
Spokane previously lost standout receivers Markee White and Huey Whittaker to the UFL.