The APFA, by 1922 known as the National Football League , has remained the predominant professional football league in the United States, and, effectively, the entire world. The evolution from a haphazard collection of teams in big and small cities to the much more rigid structure it is in the present was gradual; the smaller markets were squeezed out in the late 1920s and early 1930s, a championship game was established in 1933, a draft was established in 1936, and schedules were standardized in the 1930s. A competing league has historically arisen to attempt to challenge the NFL's dominance every 10 to 15 years, but none managed to maintain long-term operations independent of the NFL and only two—the All-America Football Conference of the late 1940s and the American Football League of the 1960s—were strong enough to successfully compete against the league before the NFL subsumed their operations. Minor league football, although their leagues' memberships were unstable, began to arise in the late 1930s and remained viable as a business model up into the 1970s.
The first record of an American football player receiving "pay for play" came in 1892 with William "Pudge" Heffelfinger's $500 contract to play in a game for the Allegheny Athletic Association against the Pittsburgh Athletic Club, with the second being Ben "Sport" Donnelly 's $250 contract to play for the same team the next week; the sums were very large by the standards of the day, and like most payment arrangements, both players denied any payment ever took place for much of their lives. For several years afterwards, individual players and sometimes entire teams received compensation to play in "barnstorming" type games without rigid schedules and against a variety of opponents. John Brallier became the first open professional after accepting $10 to play for the Latrobe Athletic Association ; Latrobe became the first all-professional club soon after. William Chase Temple would become the first man to directly bankroll a football team himself when he assumed "ownership" of the Duquesne Country and Athletic Club in either 1898 or 1899. Throughout the 1890s, the Western Pennsylvania Professional Football Circuit would act as the de facto major league (and, in fact, the only professional circuit) for football in the United States; it, like many of its successors, was not a "league" in the modern sense of a formalized organization, but rather an informal group of teams in free association with each other and any other team willing to play them.
FIFA provides services and programmes to ensure the effective professionalisation of clubs, which includes Club Licensing, the establishment of National Dispute Resolution Chambers (NDRCs) and other programmes. FIFA is working in partnership with the six confederations through the FIFA Club Licensing Programme to establish standards for club football development and governance. FIFA is also creating a long-term strategy to increase the number of NDRCs as well as other programmes to support clubs' and leagues' professionalisation at domestic level.