After the initial announcement Minnesota would be getting a team back in 2023, the Duluth Harbor Monsters are kicking off their inaugural season in the summer of 2024. Memorial Day Weekend fans will get their first look at the team as the Harbor Monsters play an exhibition game in Duluth against the Dallas Falcons at the DECC Arena.

While this is indeed football, it is a little different than what you're used to seeing when watching a local high school, college, or even NFL game. This variety of football is called arena football, which is a style of football designed for speed, high scoring, and non-stop action.

The Duluth Harbor Monsters are one of four teams in the new league, The Arena League, which recently announced expansion by a few more teams for 2025. Besides Duluth, the three other inaugural teams are the Iowa Woo of Waterloo, Iowa, Kansas City Goats of Kansas City, Missouri, and Ozarks Lunkers of Springfield, Missouri.

How is this game different? Here's a look at some of the key differences.

The field of play

Harbor Monsters
Harbor Monsters

The field is half the length of a traditional football field, 50 yards long and 85 feet wide, all played in indoor arenas across the league. The field will be surrounded by padded walls.

The turf field is designed for speed, which we'll get into in the gameplay section later.

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There will be only one on-field referee to mark and set the ball and to make penalty announcements. The rest of the officials will view the game from an in-stadium video feed and make real-time calls. Coaches will be in communication with these refs.

Players and gameplay


Teams will consist of 15-man rosters as opposed to the likes of the 53-man roster in the NFL. These smaller rosters mean that players need to be much more versatile, being able to play both offense and defense and a variety of positions.

Active gameplay will be 6-on-6, marking the first time professionally this small of a team will compete.

The goal is speed and high scoring, so players need to be versatile, quick, and ready for anything.

On offense, each play starts off with 3 players lined up as "linemen", a quarterback, and two people in receiver positions. Once play gets underway, everyone on offense becomes an eligible receiver. The quarterback cannot advance the ball past the line of scrimmage by running, but can get the ball to another player and then become an eligible receiver.

There are no specific restrictions on defense, with all 6 players lining up to match the offense as best they can.

One other major note is that there are no kickers, which means no kickoffs and no field goals. Teams must go for it on fourth down and replacing the kickoff is something the league calls a QB Throw-off. SImiplarly, on-side kicks will be replaced by onside conversions.

High-speed and high-scoring games


Once games get underway, teams will not be able to huddle up unless a timeout is called. There will be a 20-second play clock, designed to keep the pace of the games fast.

In lieu of huddles, all players and coaches will have electronic communications. Players will have in-helmet communications and coaches will have headsets.

In visiting with Harbor Monsters Head Coach Tony O'Neill, he said games could easily see teams scoring 70-80 points, meaning there will be lots of offense for fans to enjoy. While 20-30 points are average for a team in the NFL, holding a team in The Arena League to 20-30 points means you have a fantastic defensive performance.

The fan experience


Fan interaction is very much a part of the game. Coaches will take fan input on playcalling and fans will have the opportunity to rate referee performances after the game.

In addition, lots of music and entertainment will be going on around the stadium, making for a high-energy and highly-engaging fan experience.

You can see the team's full schedule here. In addition, the FAN 106.5 will carry the games on the radio at 106.5 FM, 560 AM, and on their website and mobile app for fans who can't make it to the game or want to listen while the team is on the road.

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Gallery Credit: Carly Ross