ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Colorado became the 11th state in the U.S. to sanction girls flag football as a high school sport this week, thanks to an assist from the Denver Broncos.

The Colorado High School Activities Association’s legislative council approved the fall sport following a three-year pilot program supported by the team and its foundation.

Team owner Carrie Walton Penner said Wednesday that with the sport’s approval, “more young women will be able to participate in a game they love. More young women will join teams and create relationships that last a lifetime.”

“To all you trailblazing athletes who helped launch this sport: You have not only found your community — you have built one.”

Walton Penner said a majority of the 1,500 girls who took part in the pilot program wouldn’t have participated in a fall sport were it not for flag football.

“That’s why this moment matters,” Walton Penner said. “It matters for every girl who loves football but has never seen a place for herself.”

Walton Penner called the sport’s arrival on the Colorado high school football scene “part of a larger movement in which women’s sports are drawing attention like never before.”

The Denver Broncos Foundation launched the state’s girls flag football pilot program in the fall of 2021 with support from the Broncos and CHSAA, funding and operating both seasons in which about 1,500 athletes from 50 schools across 10 districts participated.

The Broncos hosted the program’s championship tournaments both years at its fieldhouse in suburban Englewood as well as a round-robin exhibition tournament last fall.

Flag football is one of the fastest-growing sports globally and will debut as an Olympic sport during the 2028 Games in Los Angeles.

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