Arena Football League 1986-1991

AFL 1986-87

DateHome TeamAway Team
Test Game
27.04.1986Rockford Metros30Chicago Politicians18
Showcase Game
27.02.1987Chicago Bruisers30Miami Vice33
[References: 4-5]

AFL 1987

Pittsburgh Gladiators (C)6420268199.667
Denver Dynamite (P)6420261252.667
Chicago Bruisers6240217310.333
Washington Commandos6240288273.333

Reference: [1]

Home TeamAway Team
Arena Bowl I
Denver Dynamite45Pittsburgh Gladiators16

Reference: [1]

AFL 1988

Chicago Bruisers (C)121011526374.792
Detroit Drive (P)12930472310.750
Pittsburgh Gladiators (P)12660507491.500
Los Angeles Cobras (P)12561463449.458
New England Steamrollers12390330506.250
New York Knights122100337505.167

Reference: [1]

Home TeamAway Team
Detroit Drive34Pittsburgh Gladiators25
Chicago Bruisers29Los Angeles Cobras16
Arena Bowl II
Detroit Drive24Chicago Bruisers13

Reference: [1]

AFL 1989

Detroit Drive (C)431015484.750
Denver Dynamite (P)4310159147.750
Pittsburgh Gladiators (P)4310159147.750
Chicago Bruisers (P)4130167155.250
Maryland Commandos404079170.000

Reference: [1]

Home TeamAway Team
Detroit Drive43Chicago Bruisers10
Pittsburgh Gladiators39Denver Dynamite37
Arena Bowl III
Detroit Drive39Pittsburgh Gladiators26
Reference: [1]

AFL 1990

Detroit Drive (C)8620326215.750
Dallas Texans (P)8620299308.750
Denver Dynamite (P)8440289287.500
Pittsburgh Gladiators (P)8350289287.375
Albany Firebirds8350188268.375
Washington Commandos8260244264.250
Reference: [1]
Home TeamAway Team
First Round
Detroit Drive61Pittsburgh Gladiators30
Dallas Texans26Denver Dynamite25
Arena Bowl IV
Detroit Drive51Dallas Texans27
Reference: [1]

AFL 1991

*Detroit Drive10910437262.900
*Tampa Bay Storm10820421309.800
*Denver Dynamite10640389365.600
*Albany Firebirds10640427342.600
Dallas Texans10460286334.400
New Orleans Night10460314401.400
Orlando Predators10370321363.300
Columbus Thunderbolts100100241460.000
Reference: [1]
Home TeamAway Team
Detroit Drive37Albany Firebirds35
Tampa Bay Storm40Denver Dynamite13
Arena Bowl V
Tampa Ba Storm48Detroit Drive42
Reference: [1]


On February 11, 1981, James Foster witnessed an Indoor Soccer game at Madison Square Garden, and drew out the outline of an Indoor American Football field on a manilla envelope, using the same basic premise of a football field on a converted Ice Hockey rink. [2]

The first AFL test game was held on 27 April 1986 in Rockford, Illinois between the Rockford Metros and Chicago Politicians , and following positive public response the first “showcase game” in Chicago in front of 8,200 fans on February 27, 1987. [2; 4-5]

The AFL debut season began on 19 June 1987, with four teams: Chicago Bruisers, Denver Dynamite, Pittsburgh Gladiators & Washington Comandos. Denver Dynamite won Arena Bowl I, defeating Pittsburgh Gladiators 45-16 [2]

The second AFL season featued an additional three teams: Los Angeles Cobras, New England Steamrollers & New York Knights, who played only that season. Washington Commandos sat out the season Detroit Drive won Arena Bowl II, 24-13 over Chicago Bruisers. [2]

The third AFL season, in 1989, was a shortened four-game season, with five teams, including the returned Commandos, now playing in Maryland. Detroit again won the Arena Bowl, beating Pittsburgh 39-26. Following the season, the league played two successful exhibition games in Paris (France) & London (England). THE US Patent office granted the league a Patent, making it the first patented, rival-free sports league in history. [2]

the fourth AFL season, saw an expansion of two teams: Albany Firebirds & Dallas Texans, with Chicago dropping out. Detroit Drive won the Arena Bowl for the third year in succession, defeating Dallas 51-27. [2]

A further expansion in 1991, saw teams added in Orlando (Predators) and New Orleans (Night) and Columbus (Thunderbolts), with Pittsburgh relocating to Tampa Bay, becoming the Storm and the Commandos ceasing operation.The league’s expansion into the Southeast would prove enduringly successful, with the Tampa Bay & Orlando franchises remaing in existence right through to the league’s waning years in the late-2010s. Detroit was defeated in the Arena Bowl 48-42 by the Tampa Bay Storm, ending the Drive’s attempts at a four-in-a-row. [2]

In 1992 the league expanded to 12 teams and three divisions, ending the AFL’s formative years, and beginning the AFL’s rise to become what the Wall Street Journal called the fifth Major [2].



[1] Arena Football League (2016) “2016 Record and Fact Book” pp. 57-65.

[2] Arena Football League (2016) “2016 Record and Fact Book” pp. 52-56.

Social Media

[3] Arena Fan Facebook Page (2021) Post, April 27, 1987 [Internet] Available from: [Accessed 4 June 2021]


[4] Arena Fan (2021) History 1986 Schedule [Internet] Available from: [Accessed 4 June 2021]

[5] Arena Fan (2021) History 1987 Schedule [Internet] Available from: [Accessed 4 June 2021]


Thanks to Richard Conville, Conor Lynch, Maurice Lynch, Dylan Brennan, Jonathan Brennan, Simon Brennan & Robert Byron.

About this document

Researched, compiled and written by Enda Mulcahy for the

Eirball – Irish North American & World Sports Archive

Last Updated: 4 June 2021

(c) Copyright Enda Mulcahy and Eirball 2019-21

You may quote this document in part provided that proper acknowledgement is given to the authors. All Rights Reserved. The Logos and Photos used in this article remain the property of the organisations and individuals which own the copyright and are used here for educational and information purposes only.

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