The CFL plays Canadian football, which is somewhat different from the American football usual in the United States. The first American team, the Sacramento Gold Miners, joined in 1993, the league expanded to four American teams in 1994 and five in 1995. In the latter year, the teams were aligned into a new South Division, the three years saw numerous franchise moves, foldings, and ownership debacles on both sides of the U. S. –Canada border. The Baltimore Stallions became the only American-based team to win the Grey Cup championship, with the exception of Baltimore, the American teams consistently lost money. CFL games in the United States by its American teams averaged 10,000 to 15,000 in paid attendance, tension also arose between the American and Canadian contingents over rule changes, scheduling, import rules, and even the name of the league itself. Facing these difficulties, the league again fielded only Canadian teams beginning in 1996, while expansion was the most notable CFL effort in the United States, the league had also made previous inroads. Eleven neutral-site CFL games have been held in the United States, the CFL has also attempted to find a television audience in the United States, most notably during an NFL players strike in 1982, and more recently on ESPN. Until 1993 the Canadian Football League, and its associations, had always operated solely within Canada. Lackluster CFL television ratings in the United States during the 1982 NFL strike seemed to bolster this argument, there had been a degree of cross-fertilization between Canadian and American leagues earlier in the 20th century. A number of CFL–NFL interleague games were held in Canada, as well, eleven neutral-site CFL games have been played on American soil. The earliest of these dates to 1909, while the bulk occurred between 1951 and 1967, in 1958, Hamilton defeated Ottawa in a regular-season contest in front about 15,000 in Philadelphias cavernous Municipal Stadium, 24–18. It remains the only CFL game played outside Canada, involving two Canadian teams, that counted in the standings. The American Pacific Northwest became a frequent site for games in the 1950s and 1960s, western Canadian teams, particularly the BC Lions, were most often called upon to entertain their regional neighbours. News reports from the time suggest a game of three down Canadian ball played on the more restricted 100 yard American field. Games tended to be characterized by low scores and frequent punting, a low scoring BC–Calgary game in Everett, Washington in 1967 drew just over 6,000, there would not be another CFL game in the United States until the cusp of US expansion itself in 1992. The idea of attracting American fans through television has long been a goal of the CFL although the results have been intermittent, as early as 1954, the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union struck a deal with NBC that lasted a year and featured 13 games. The infamous Fog Bowl of 1962 was—at least until play was suspended—broadcast by ABC, over subsequent years various non-major networks picked up an assortment of games. The fledgling ESPN signed a deal in 1981 for 30 CFL regular season games and the playoffs, NBC would air CFL games on Sunday afternoons with full NFL production values and announcing crews
Memorial Stadium in Baltimore was home to the Baltimore Stallions, easily the most successful CFL expansion team in the United States. They averaged more than 30,000 fans each of their two years.
Overhead view of Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis. While few of the American stadiums to host Canadian football were ideal, the literal and figurative corners cut at the Liberty Bowl were particularly severe; the field was well short of regulation length.