The first national American Football federation outside of the United States was founded in Canada in 1896, as Canada already had a long history with Canadian football. Japan was also an early adopter of American football, establishing its national federation in 1936. The first European federation was formed in 1976. Since then, the sport has experienced a significant expansion, especially in Europe, culminating in the founding of the European Federation of American Football in 1993. Five years later (1998), the International Federation of American Football was officially formed. The IFAF became a provisionary member of SportAccord in 2003, and became a full SportAccord member in 2005.

Currently, the IFAF is composed of 64 member nations on six continents (North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania), all of which possess national federations dedicated solely to American football. IFAF is a Designated Developmental Partner of the National Football League (NFL).