USA Football aims to grow the game of women’s flag football with first Americas Continental Championship

The event featured national teams from all across the American continents competing on the campus of UNC Charlotte.
Championship held here in Charlotte brings attention to this rapidly growing sport
Published: Jul. 7, 2023 at 11:32 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - USA Football has one big goal ahead — make men’s and women’s flag football an Olympic sport.

This week, that goal became more realistic with the introduction of the Internation Federation of American Football’s (IFAF) first Americas Continental Flag Football Championship.

The event featured national teams from all across the American continents competing on the campus of UNC Charlotte.

USA Football CEO Scott Hallenbeck is hopeful that the introduction of this championship will continue to grow the game and legitimize flag football.

“It’s just incredible to see, and I’m so pleased that we’re a part of this,” Hallenbeck said. “We have the opportunity to get them to wear U-S-A across their chest and represent our country.”

For star players like USA wide receiver Madison Fulford, growing the game this week hits especially close to home.

“It’s just crazy to be a role model on this stage, I never knew that I would be here,” Fulford said. “It’s all very humbling and super cool.”

Fulford attended Jay M. Robinson High School in Concord, but only played basketball and ran track because flag football wasn’t an option for her at the time.

Since her graduation, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools has become the only district in the state of North Carolina to offer flag football as a varsity girls sport. CMS has partnered with the Panthers the last two years, holding county championships for more than 20 schools to participate in.

Flag football has become a girls varsity sport in seven states across the nation, including South Carolina.

“It’s amazing, it makes the little girl in me super happy,” Fulford said. “I wish that that was around when I was here because I would have definitely loved to do it. But I love that the game is expanding, and these girls can see what it’s all about.”

Fulford put on a show for all the girls that came out to watch Friday night’s gold medal game, she scored all four touchdowns in team USA’s win over Mexico.

Next up? The hope is that the game has grown enough to be recognized at the 2028 Olympic games.

“I think it’s an absolute game-changer to have women compete at the highest level and represent their country, much like the men,” Hallenbeck said. “We’re honored to lead that effort and lead Team U-S-A hopefully into the Olympics in ‘28.”

Hallenbeck says USA Football could have an answer on flag football’s inclusion in the next Olympic games as early as October of this year. He says that’s when the next International Olympic Committee meeting is, and that flag football is expected to be deliberated on for inclusion in the 2028 summer games.