The best American football league in the world has just announced that it will not return to Mexico City's Estadio Azteca next season. Germany will benefit from this, as it will host as many as two NFL games this year. The agreement in place until 2025 was that the country was to host one game per season, alternating between Munich and Frankfurt.
When did the NFL start playing matches outside the USA?
The first NFL league game of importance outside the US took place in 2005. That was when the Mexican capital welcomed the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers football teams to play a regular season game at the legendary Estadio Azteca. The meeting, in which the Cardinals prevailed, was hugely popular, with as many as 103,467 fans in the stands, an attendance record in the NFL at the time.
Since 2007, the world's best football players have regularly visited London. The league's first regular season game outside North America was held at Wembley, with the New York Giants and Miami Dolphins (13-10) facing each other. The event was also a huge success, with 81,176 spectators in the stands. Since then, excluding 2020 for known reasons, at least one game of the season has been held at this stadium. In addition to Wembley, three games in 2016-17 were also played at Twickenham Stadium, and from 2019 onwards, two games of each NFL season are hosted at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Why won't the NFL come to Estadio Azteca?
Mexico City has also been a regularly visited destination for footballers since 2016. The nation's capital has hosted one game per season every year since then, with the exception of 2018, when the game was moved because the condition of the turf at Estadio Azteca left much to be desired, and 2020-21 due to restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NFL has announced that it will not be coming to Mexico next season either, as the national stadium will then be undergoing upgrades for the 2026 football World Cup.
Peter O'Reilly, NFL executive vice president of club business and league events, said:
Mexico plays a critical role in the NFL’s international growth strategy, with its passionate and growing fan base. We remain committed to year-round engagement with our amazing Mexican fans and look forward to future games in Mexico. Germany has taken advantage of this, having been awarded the right to host two regular season games in 2023.
Where will the NFL play in Germany?
The league began assessing interest in German cities for potential games in June 2021. Germany was seen as an ideal candidate to expand the international match series due to the high viewership of the NFL in the country. Super Bowl LV was watched by as many as 2.2 million Germans. The numerous state-of-the-art stadiums were also not insignificant.
For the first time, the league came to that country during last year's competition. In November, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks (21-16) faced each other at Munich's Allianz Arena. As many as 69,811 people watched the two teams' rivalry from the stands, and Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady described the occasion as "one of the great football experiences" he had ever had.
The agreement with the NFL is that, until 2025, Germany was to host one game per season alternating between the Allianz Arena and Frankfurt's Deutsche Bank Park. As a reminder, modernisation work is currently underway at Eintracht’s stadium, which will increase the venue's capacity to 60,000 spectators. The work is expected to be completed in July 2023.
At this point, we do not yet know how the two matches will be split this year. What is clear are the teams that will be coming to Germany - current champions, Kansas City Chiefs, and the New England Patriots, as both clubs were awarded marketing rights in Germany. Their opponents have not yet been announced.
© Allie Caulfield (cc: by)