The National Football League (NFL) is looked at as the most popular sport in the United States, but also has the strongest international popularity among the top four American sports leagues. The NFL has primarily focused on London to help grow its game internationally and help build a fan base to support a possible expansion team in London in the future. Since 2007, there have been 18 regular season games in the International Series, with all but one taking place in London. The other game was played in 2016 in Estadio Azteca, between the Houston Texans and what was then the Oakland Raiders. This game provided a significant economic impact on Mexico City, and the profitability of the International Series has made NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell fascinated by the thought of putting a team in another country.
The NFL has its sights set on Germany to be the next country to expand its international footprint. Germany is a logical step for the NFL due to its growing NFL fanbase, and also because it is one of the world’s largest economies. The fanbase in Germany has grown because of NFL products such as the video game series Madden and Game Pass streaming platform, which are both major sellers in the German market. The attraction between the country and the NFL is mutual, and it is only a matter of time before a city is picked for the next location in the NFL International Series.
Several cities in Germany bid for a chance to host games. The NFL selected three finalist cities to bid against each other to host a regular season game in 2022 and 2023. The German cities are Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, and Munich. Brett Gosper, the head of the NFL’s Europe and UK office, stated that Berlin did not apply because “they were not keen to engage in competition.” Gosper also said the city would be chosen based on the stadium, infrastructure, and ease of travel. Before trying to revamp NFL Europe, which as an attempt to expand American football to an international market, the league appears to be focused on building a stronger European fanbase with increased international games. Although NFL Europe failed, it saw more success in Germany than any other country.
It is a clear goal of the NFL to expand the game outside of the United States. Chief strategy and growth officer, Chris Haplan, stated more than half of the league’s teams were evaluating foreign rights proposals, which are deals that could see them choose to play as many as four regular season games in foreign countries, aside from the exhibition games organized by the league. With the NFL’s efforts to expand the International Series, it appears they are strategically positioned to be the first major sports league that has a team located on a different continent. Even if the NFL does not add an international expansion team to the American league, it can be argued the NFL is the leader in globalization of professional sports.
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