The NFL could stage a game in yet another international location as early as 2024, commissioner Roger Goodell said Saturday.
Goodell spoke at a fans’ forum in London, which is hosting three games this season before the international slate switches to Germany for two games in November.
The league recently confirmed that cities in Spain and Brazil are under review as potential hosts in the future.
“I do see us playing in more markets very soon, as early as next year,” Goodell said. “We actually have three or four markets that are here this weekend and next weekend that are interested in hosting a game.”
The NFL declined to comment beyond Goodell’s answers at the fan event.
The league has made an aggressive push internationally by adding a 17th game to the schedule to facilitate games abroad and giving teams marketing rights in various countries.
League officials have made site visits to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in Brazil and Madrid in Spain where they were “building relationships, looking at the stadia there, looking at the operations partners, the infrastructure,” said Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s executive vice president for club business, and international and league events, in a recent media call.
Twenty-one teams are participating in the NFL’s global markets program in 2023 across 14 international countries. The league has expressed interest in bringing games to several of those markets and hasn’t ruled out putting a franchise overseas in the future.
Under the global markets program, the Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins have commercial rights in Spain. The Dolphins are the only team with rights in Brazil.
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With newly attained rights in Ireland, the Pittsburgh Steelers are trying to grow their fan base there in hopes of eventually staging a regular-season game at Croke Park in Dublin.
Under the expanded schedule, NFC teams get nine home games in 2024, which at least opens the door for the possibility of the Bears playing in Spain next season.
Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu Stadium has nearly finished major renovations, including a soccer pitch that retracts to make way for an artificial turf field that can be used for American football with a capacity over 80,000. Atlético Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium seats 68,000.
The first regular-season game in Germany last year was considered a success. Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Seattle Seahawks 21-16 in Munich.
The German city of Frankfurt hosts two games this season, the first being the Kansas City Chiefs against the Dolphins on Nov. 5.
The Jacksonville Jaguars face the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Jags beat the Atlanta Falcons 23-7 last week at Wembley Stadium. It’s the first time a team is playing consecutive games abroad. They have another year left on a three-year deal to play an annual home game at Wembley.
London has hosted 34 of the 46 regular-season games the NFL has staged internationally.
“We will not stop playing games in the UK, but we will play more games in other markets because we want to be a global sport,” Goodell said. “We intend to be a global sport.”
Goodell answered the “London franchise” question even before it was asked Saturday at the annual fans’ Q&A. Potential scheduling problems during the playoffs would be “a tough dynamic,” he said.
Goodell has previously said London has the capacity for two franchises and has even floated the idea of having a full European division of teams.
The Jaguars, though, have opened a $120 million training facility and unveiled conceptual designs for a $1.4 billion stadium project that could tie the team to Jacksonville for decades.
Goodell all but ruled out staging a Super Bowl in London or any other city where there’s no NFL team.
“For us to play a Super Bowl in a city where we don’t have a franchise, that would be pretty hard to do,” he said.
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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