In the fall, the NFL will open its inaugural football academy in London, serving 80 players ages 16 to 18 in the England capital, the Associated Press reports.
“In the last two or three years, this has been about, whilst being quintessentially American, could we be more British (and) locally relevant?” said NFL UK managing director Alistair Kirkwood. “(Can we) have grassroots and a commitment to having British players who look like you and talk like you, and then at the same time have younger kids playing the game right down to flag football?”
Similar to soccer clubs overseas, which cultivate talent at a young age through their academies, the NFL will accomplish a similar goal while growing the sport outside the United States. While it will initially be open to 16 to 18-year-olds, the program, if successful, could look to target other age groups and girls in the future.
More than 1,500 individuals applied for the program, with 150 finalists already picked. That number will be whittled down to 80 before the academy begins.
The league has been looking to expand its fanbase to Europe for years now and this looks to be the next step in that process. The NFL has been playing games regularly in London since 2007, and the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium that opened in April has a retractable field suitable for American football games going forward.
The NBA found success with its Basketball Without Borders program, and the NFL will look to find similar success at cultivating talent with this new endeavor.