Which cities and countries could the NFL expand to in the future?

NFL 2020 is on the horizon, and punters using sports betting Colorado will be able to wager on 256 games during the regular season from early September.

With the NFL as popular as ever with fans domestically, it is no surprise that the league continues to target expansion, and there is no shortage of potential destinations, either for a franchise or matches.

London

London seems like a natural home for NFL expansion. It has now hosted 28 regular season NFL games, a number that dwarfs other cities around the world. Toronto, second on the list, has hosted just six. The English capital hosted five regular season games in 2019, the last of which saw Houston Texans dominate Jacksonville Jaguars in a 26-3 mauling at Wembley Stadium.

Every game in London is also well supported. More than 84,000 fans watched the three matches at Wembley in 2018, and Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium, built with NFL in mind, has taken up the mantle with big crowds and vocal support. It is important to remember that an average attendance of more than 78,000 would make a franchise in London the second-best supported in the NFL.

Logistical and travel concerns exist when considering London as a permanent expansion option. West coast teams, in particular, are likely to need an east coast game before heading to Europe to negate some of the adverse effects of a 10-hour flight.

NFL executive vice president Mark Waller believes the potential logistics headache is worth it though and he stated in 2018 that the league could expand to London by 2022. He noted that all four teams that won matches there in 2017 were able to advance to the playoffs.

Canada

While London is the only feasible option for NFL expansion in the UK, Canada has several potential destinations. The cities of Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Winnipeg could all conceivably play host to key matches.

A few of these already have teams plying their trade in US-centric sports leagues, such as the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and NHL’s Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs. The NFL is the only major sports league in America without a team based in Canada.

The most recent NFL game in Canada took place in Toronto back in 2013 when the Atlanta Falcons beat the Buffalo Bills after overtime at the Rogers Centre. However, the Oakland Raiders did edge out the Green Bay Packers 22-21 in a pre-season game in Winnipeg in August 2019.

There is an appetite for the game north of the border, but is there enough to support large attendance regularly? Toronto would seem to be the go-to option, but the Buffalo Bills were only able to attract around 47,000 on average during six regular season games over five years from 2008.

If the NFL does expand into Canada, Edmonton may be a wiser move as it has the second-largest stadium in the country and showed fervent support for the MLB’s Montreal Expos before relocation.

Mexico City

Mexico is another country with strong links to the NFL. Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca welcomed the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers in November 2019 and has hosted four regular season games and six exhibition matches in total over the years.

Mexico has a few advantages over other potential expansion options. It is blessed with a more favorable time zone than London and is in very close proximity to teams in large states like Florida and Texas. American football is also widely watched and revered in the country.

“We have a tremendous, passionate fan base in Mexico and we know the atmosphere on game day will be outstanding,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell noted in 2016.

Mexican fans show incredible support for players and teams they follow and are particularly vocal on social media where high profile sports stars are lauded with praise and encouragement. That suggests the NFL could take off quickly if it were to expand into Mexico. The market is certainly big enough to support a move.

Portland, Oregon

The NFL can also continue to spread its wings domestically. There are still a few spots across the country that would be prime locations for a new NFL team or for one to relocate. Portland is near the top of that list. It has one of the largest populations, 25th in the US, and is the 22nd largest media market. Other potential destinations in the US include San Antonio, Texas, and Memphis, Tennessee.

With so many expansion options and its rich history of relocations and moves, the NFL will surely venture into new regions and markets in the near future.

AFI
American Football International is your source for news and updates about American Football outside the United States!
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