Arena Football League

American football is gaining traction in China

American football is gaining traction in China

Stadium lights glared through heavy Beijing smog, top-40 bass lines shook the stands, the smell of cheap hot dogs filled the air and the Dalian Dragon Kings strutted onto the field, shouting and clapping in their crisp blue uniforms.

A few hundred had gathered to watch the Dragon Kings take on the Shenzhen Naja, marking the second game in the first season of the China Arena Football League — China’s first professional football league, a scrappy, six-team operation run by a company based in Conshohocken, Pa.

As the game unfolded — snaps fumbled, kicks blocked and touchdowns scored — the children in the stands roared with delight, while...