In a few short weeks, the National Football League (NFL) will touch down in a brand new country as a new part of recent efforts to expand internationally across the past two decades. For the first time, American football teams will take the field in Germany, which the NFL officially announced on May 4, 2022. Tom Brady will lead his fellow Tampa Bay Buccaneers into the city of Munich, at the prestigious Allianz Arena to take on the Seattle Seahawks in this historic fixture. As part of a new season requirement for each franchise, one game must be played internationally each year. This is one of five games to be played globally this fall; another three are being held in London and the last one is hosted in Mexico City.
Since 2007, the NFL has been exhibited in the United Kingdom, usually at Wembley Stadium. As time moved forward and more TV deals were formed, NFL commissioners sought to have more exposure for the American game overseas. Back in July of 2015, English Soccer club Tottenham Hotspur inked a 10-year deal to host two NFL games each season in their new stadium which was built with facilities intended for hosting American Football matches.
Along with these European matches, the NFL also announced a rematch of the historic 2005 game played the esteemed Estadio Azteca in Mexico City between the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers, the first-ever official NFL game played outside of the United States. In every season since 2016 at least one game has been played south of the border. While it is not expected from the Soccer crazed nation, an average NFL game in Mexico City can draw upwards of 80,000 fans.
According to an interview that John Vrooman of Vanderbilt University did with the New York Times; “there are already more NFL fans in Mexico than any place outside of the US. Recent studies estimate 28 million NFL fans throughout Mexico with about 10 million self-designated hard-core fans. Mexico City has 1.5 million NFL fans alone, which would rank in the top quartile of current NFL markets.” As shown in these studies, there are a lot more international NFL fans than one may think.
While we have yet to see the German reception to the foreign sport, the NFL has found recent success in the United Kingdom, with a 54% growth in regular TV viewership of NFL matches on Sky Sports since the start of the 2020 regular season. In addition, the NFL partnered with Local Station 5 after a 13-year hiatus to bring free-to-watch games of Monday Night Football to the British market; a sure sign of the recent growth of the sport overseas.
While it is unlikely we will ever see a sport rise to international dominance in popularity like that of soccer, there is much to look forward to for NFL fans both at home and overseas. As recent TV rights deals and stadium constructions projects are taking place with the NFL and Great Britain coupled with Mexico’s market demand for the sport and endeavors beginning in Germany, we very may well witness locals wearing Tom Brady jerseys when we study abroad!