NFL to expand Practice Squads for all teams to include one international player starting in 2024

September 13, 2023: The National Football League has announced the expansion of the practice squad for all 32 clubs beginning in 2024 to include one international player, helping to create more  opportunities for talented athletes from around the world to be identified and developed in the game of  football. 

Since 2017, select divisions have been allocated international players as part of the NFL’s International  Player Pathway (IPP) program. Between the program’s launch in 2017 and 2022, one division participated each year. This year, two divisions – the AFC West and the NFC North – are participating in  the initiative, with eight players from the program being allocated to NFL clubs. 

37 international players have signed with NFL teams (allocated, drafted or signed as a free agent) since  the program’s inception. There are currently 19 IPP athletes on NFL rosters, with five players having made teams active rosters – Jordan Mailata (Australia – Philadelphia Eagles), Efe Obada (UK – Washington Commanders), Jakob Johnson (Germany – Las Vegas Raiders), Sammis Reyes (Chile – Washington Commanders) and David Bada (Germany – Washington Commanders). 

Those international players, scouted globally as part of the NFL’s long-term football development  efforts, were eligible for an international player practice squad exemption, granting the participating  teams an extra practice squad member. 

Beginning in 2024, the practice squad will expand to 17 players for all 32 clubs, if one player is a  qualifying international player. For the purpose of the initiative, a qualifying international player is a  person whose citizenship and principal place of residence are outside the United States and Canada, and  who have a maximum of two years of United States high school experience. In addition, an international  player must (i) satisfy all NFL player eligibility rules and (ii) have been eligible for a prior NFL Draft. 

Clubs may choose to sign players identified through the NFL’s International Player Pathway program or  can choose to independently scout for international talent. 

“The practice squad roster expansion for international players will further contribute to our goal of  building a sustainable pathway to the NFL for elite global athletes, while also creating local connections  with fans around the world,” said Peter O’Reilly, NFL Executive Vice President, Club Business, Major  Events & International. “With the support of all 32 clubs, the NFL International Committee, the NFL  Competition Committee and the NFL Players Association, we look forward to implementing this new 

model to benefit the game long-term and welcome more international talent into our League in the  years to come.”  

“As interest and participation in our game continues to grow and thrive globally, the talent pool of  players who have the potential to impact our game on and off the field keeps expanding as well,”  said Joel Glazer, Owner/Co-Chairman of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chair of the NFL International  Committee. “The opportunity for all 32 clubs to utilize an additional practice squad roster spot for an  international player is a significant step forward in helping to identify, develop and enable more exciting  talent from around the world to play in the NFL. Our clubs will embrace this new opportunity to develop  the pipeline of international players as we grow our game.” 

“The game grows and improves with global talent from around the world who inspire the next  generation in their home nation,” said Troy Vincent, NFL Executive Vice President, Football Operations. “This League-wide initiative paves the way for more international athletes to demonstrate that football  has a place for everyone.” 

Under the new rules, a participating club is permitted to elevate its international practice squad player  to its active roster a maximum of three times throughout the season – increasing the flexibility for clubs  to leverage the additional player, while creating more opportunity for international players to develop  and play in the League. Each club will also receive one training camp roster exemption for a qualifying  player. 

“The International Player Pathway program changed my life and I’m very thankful for the opportunity it  has provided me,” said Jordan Mailata, Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle and IPP alumni from  Australia. “The program shows so many young athletes around the world that playing in the NFL can be  a reality. Expanding the program to see all 32 teams able to sign an international player to their practice  squad will only continue to help make our sport better, more diverse and more competitive.” 

The International Player Pathway program is part of a broader long-term commitment from the NFL and  the 32 clubs to accelerate the development of football around the world. From the growth of NFL Flag  football globally in partnership with the International Federation of American Football (IFAF), to the NFL  Academy program and creating opportunities for talented student athletes to secure college football  scholarships in the US to change lives, the NFL has a strategic focus on engaging and enabling young  athletes to find, play and thrive in the sport.

Alex is a former NCAA and semi-pro American football player who is now located in London, where he works in digital marketing. His goal in writing for AFI is to stay involved with the game that has given him so much. Alex enjoys covering leagues and