The COVID-19 pandemic slowed the NFL’s efforts to expand its foreign-soil footprint, but after this season’s five-game docket, the league will look to move further on this front.
Few matters are more important to high-ranking NFL officials than the expansion of the league’s Europe and Mexico efforts, Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post notes. This will likely mean moves to at least double the league’s Germany and Mexico schedules, while the potential for a major England expansion remains on the radar.
The prospect of moving a team to London has died down, though Roger Goodell did not shoot down the notion there could one day be two European-based franchises one day. For now, however, La Canfora adds the concept of a “London Season Ticket” — which would feature eight games at various venues throughout the country — is on the radar. The NFL, which is playing games at four non-American venues this season, also continues to explore the possibility of playing a game in Brazil.
Prior to the format for the NFL’s 17th game being unveiled, a report indicated the league would push for 16 overseas games to give every team eight home games, eight road games and one neutral-site tilt. That has not yet come to fruition, and moving from five overseas games to nearly that would be an extreme step. The bridge to that reality could also become complicated. Said bridge might be coming by 2024, with one high-ranking source informing La Canfora there will likely be more than five non-American games by that point.
This year, five teams lost home games because of London, Germany or Mexico assignments. If more foreign-soil games are coming in two years, a scenario in which nearly half the teams in a conference are docked a home contest enters the equation. While the advantage gained by the teams that are not forced to make such a concession would be minimal, the seven-team playoff bracket rewarding one bye per conference makes such matters more important.
Goodell entertained the idea of a European division when posed that question. The longtime commissioner indicated the goal of determining whether multiple cities in Europe could house NFL franchises remains. We seem a long ways off from that becoming a serious possibility, and the NFL has not expanded nor realigned its divisions since 2002. But Goodell’s regime has refused to let the reality of overseas-stationed teams fade.
“That’s part of what we’re doing, right?” Goodell said, via Sky Sports. “We’re trying to see ‘Could you have multiple locations in Europe where you could have an NFL franchise?,’ because it would be easier as a division.”