(Courtesy of the New York Jets)

Football is the most popular sport in the United States, but for most high school girls, there has never been a gender-exclusive option to play the game competitively. That’s about to change in the New York area.

The New York Jets on Wednesday announced the expansion of their High School Girls Flag Football League to 42 teams after it soft launched with eight New Jersey teams in 2021. This year, the league will include high schools from Long Island and New Jersey.

“The expansion of our Girls Flag Football League brings us one step closer to our goal of having the sport as an official varsity sport in both New York and New Jersey,” said Jesse Linder, the Jets’ vice president of community relations.

The expansion, announced on National Girls and Women in Sports Day in conjunction with Nike, means every participating school will receive implementation grants, equipment and jerseys. The Jets on Wednesday invited one player from each team to MetLife Stadium for a surprise uniform reveal.

The season will be brought to life as part of the #EmpowHer docuseries, and there will be championship games for both Long Island and New Jersey teams at the Jets’ training center in Florham Park, N.J. Last season, Passaic County Technical Institute (Wayne, N.J.) won the inaugural championship.

(Courtesy of the New York Jets)

The Jets are not the only NFL team investing in girls’ flag football; on Jan. 31, the Philadelphia Eagles announced the launch of a league in Pennsylvania. But there is still plenty of room to grow nationwide: only five states (Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Florida and Nevada) sponsor girls’ flag football in conjunction with National Federation of State High School Associations members.

The Jets hope to pave the way for more girls to compete in the area, and eventually, the whole country.

“The growth of this league demonstrates not only our commitment to making the game more accessible to more players, but the growing interest and excitement around this particular program,” said Jessica Ciccone, the Jets’ vice president for content and strategy.

Josh Needelman is the High School Sports Editor at Just Women’s Sports. Follow him on Twitter @JoshNeedelman.