Why Does the NFL Play in London?

As the NFL returns to London in 2023, we examine why the league plays games in the UK and what the NFL's international future might look like.

Why Does the NFL Play in London?

The 2023 season will witness the 34th, 35th, and 36th NFL regular-season games played in London since the International Series began on Oct. 28, 2007. With the exception of 2020, each NFL season since 2007 has featured at least one London matchup. So why does the NFL play games in London, and what is the NFL’s long-term goal for the International Series?

The Origin of NFL Games in London

While the first international NFL game in London took place 16 years ago, the league officially put the wheels in motion to play abroad in 2005. The NFL finished the American Bowl after the 2005 preseason game between the Atlanta Falcons and Indianapolis Colts. The American Bowl featured NFL preseason games outside the United States regularly between 1986 and 2005.

At the same time, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the end of NFL Europa. The league was formerly known as the World League of American Football and NFL Europe. The final season of NFL Europa took place in 2007 — the same year the NFL began playing regular-season games in London.

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Initially, the belief was that the league was assessing whether and how to grant London its own NFL team. Goodell also discussed the potential of playing the Super Bowl in London in the future.

The 2022 International Series Looked Very Different

Last year, the league introduced a new format for the NFL’s regular season International Series. The 2022 campaign featured five games and 10 teams heading to three different countries. Along with the NFL’s usual stop in London, the league returned to Mexico City, Mexico, for the first time since 2019 and played its first game in Munich, Germany.

These moves tracked with the NFL’s changes regarding its new International Series plan, in which they would schedule a minimum of four international games annually. Each of the 32 teams would host at least one game over an eight-year cycle.

In anticipation of the NFL’s International Series expansion outside of just London, the NFL announced International Home Marketing Areas for 18 teams across eight countries.

Which NFL Teams Will Play in London in 2023?

For the upcoming season, the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans are each expected to host a game in London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Meanwhile, the Jaguars will return to Wembley Stadium, marking Jacksonville’s 10th London contest in 11 years.

Will the NFL Move Any Teams to London?

In many respects, it seems decreasingly likely that the NFL will move a franchise to London. When the NFL expanded the number of games from one to four between 2012 and 2017, it was viewed as a test to see whether London could host as many as eight games in a single season.

The NFL has also utilized three stadiums in London while playing games there. The majority have been hosted at Wembley Stadium. Twickenham Stadium has also hosted three games, and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is hosting its seventh and eighth games in 2022.

With the launch of the international marketing areas, the NFL’s return to Mexico, and its debut last year in Germany, it’s evident that the NFL is more interested in growing its global footprint than establishing a franchise on a different content.

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It should be noted, however, that anything remains possible for this continually growing operation. Flights from New York City to London take only about an hour longer than flights from New York City to Los Angeles. The point is, it’s doable from a travel standpoint.

The NFL hasn’t added a franchise in 21 years. In some respects, it’s achieved nice symmetry across eight equally sized divisions. Yet, in other respects — and based on what we’ve seen historically — the NFL isn’t shy about going big.