The NFL has always been a league that is looking to expand its brand and reach new audiences. In recent years, the international market has become a focus for the NFL as they look to increase their audience and revenue through non-traditional means. The NFL International Series began in 2007 when the New York Giants and the Miami Dolphins played at Wembley Stadium in London. Since then, there have been 19 games between different teams (excluding Super Bowls) played internationally. The series expanded in 2016 with games being played in London, Mexico City, and Sydney. There are also plans to expand internationally again soon with Germany being one of the target markets. These are some of the key moments in the history of the NFL’s international series:
2007: The Beginnings of the International Series
The first International Series game was played in 2007 at Wembley Stadium in London. The New York Giants defeated the Miami Dolphins 13-10 in front of 83,559 fans, who were given free tickets by the NFL. The experiment was deemed a success and the NFL decided to continue playing games outside of the United States. This led to three games being played in Japan between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks. Two games were also played in Toronto as part of a growing partnership with the Canadian Football League. After these four games in non-traditional markets, the NFL decided to expand the International Series and bring games to London, Mexico City, and Sydney.
2016: International Games Continue and Expand
In 2016, there were three games played outside of the United States. The series began with the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos playing in the first NFL game in Mexico City. The game, played on a Friday night, saw 86,254 fans attend the game, which was considered a success. The series continued with the Houston Texans and the Buffalo Bills playing in the first NFL game in Toronto since 2008. The game was played at the Rogers Centre and saw 66,765 fans attend the game, which was considered a success. Later in the year, the series continued with the Washington Redskins and the Cincinnati Bengals playing in London, the first team to play there twice. The game saw 83,000 fans attend the game, which was considered a success.
2017: The NFL Continues to Expand Globally
In 2017, the NFL continued to expand its International Series with games being played in Mexico City, London, and Toronto. The series began with the New York Giants playing the Los Angeles Rams in the first NFL game in Mexico in over two decades. The game saw 87,926 fans attend the game, which was considered a success. The series then continued with the Pittsburgh Steelers playing the Minnesota Vikings in London in the first game to be played in back-to-back years. The game saw 83,889 fans attend the game, which was considered a success. Later in the year, the series continued with the Buffalo Bills playing the Jacksonville Jaguars in Toronto. The game saw an attendance of 40,870 fans, which was considered a success.
The NFL will continue to expand it’s International Series and look to play games in new non-traditional markets. The league has stated that Germany is a target market and could host a game as early as 2019. There are also plans to play games in Mexico and China in the future. A new stadium being built in Mexico City could also see the NFL return to Mexico for future games. This will be the first stadium built for the NFL outside of North America and will aim to be an iconic stadium that represents the league’s global ambitions.