The NAFL was formed in 1960, as a result of the merger of the American Soccer League and the North American Soccer Football League which was struggling financially. The leagues were reformed into regional divisions, with the ASL teams forming the Eastern Division and the NASFL forming the Central Division, with the top six teams from each division competing in the NAFL. In the 1970's the franchise expanded to include teams from the west coast, playing in the Western Division. The franchise struggled to compete with other sports leagues such as the NFL, NBA and NHL, which were home grown sports in comparison to soccer, which was widely regarded as foreign. In fact many of the NAFL teams were formed by immigrant communities, and the names of the teams reflected this. Because of this the NAFL put pressure on teams to rebrand themselves for the American fanbase, so for instance the Ukrainian Nationals became the Philadephia Tridents and the New York Greeks became New York Olympians.
The NAFL is the topmost soccer league in North America. The top four placed teams qualify from the regional divisions, Western, Central and Eastern to the NAFL, where they play against each other home and away.