Why Does The NFL Play In London?

The 2022 season will see the 31st and 32nd NFL regular season games played in London since the International Series began in 2007. Since that debut game in 2007, the NFL has played at least one game in London every year except for 2020. But why does the NFL play games in London, and what is the long-term aim of the NFL with the International Series?

The origin of NFL games in London

While the first international NFL game in London took place in 2007, the league officially put the wheels in motion to play abroad in 2005. The league finished the American Bowl after the 2005 preseason game between the Atlanta Falcons and Indianapolis Colts. The American Bowl had seen the NFL play 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.

Initially, the belief was that the NFL was lining London up to have its own team. Goodell also discussed the potential of playing the Super Bowl in London in the future.

The 2022 International series looks very different

2022 introduces a new format for the NFL’s regular season International Series. This season features five games and ten teams heading to three different countries. Along with the NFL’s usual stop in London, the league will return to Mexico City for the first time since 2019 and play its first game in Munich, Germany.

These moves track with the NFL’s changes regarding its new International Series plan. Each year, there will be a minimum of four international games held. Each of the 32 teams will 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. You can find which teams are building their global brands here.

What NFL teams will play in London in 2022?

The 2022 NFL season will see five teams return to London that have been there before and one team play abroad that has yet to play in the International Series. The Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants, and New Orleans Saints will make their third trips to London, the Denver Broncos will make their second trip, the Jacksonville Jaguars will make their ninth, and the Green Bay Packers will cross the Atlantic for the first time.

The Giants, Vikings, and Saints all boast undefeated records in London. One of the Vikings or Saints will suffer their first international loss in 2022, as the two teams play each other in Week 4. The Broncos lost their only NFL London game in 2010 in a 24-16 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Meanwhile, the Jaguars are 4-4 in the UK and are hoping to start a second win streak in England after a three-game run between 2015-2017.

After playing both 2021 NFL London games in Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the league will return to Wembley Stadium at the end of October for the first time since 2019 when the Broncos take on the Jaguars.

Will the NFL move any teams to London?

It is seeming less and less 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 fifth and sixth games in 2022.

With the launch of the international marketing areas, the NFL’s return to Mexico, and its debut in Germany, it’s very evident the NFL is more interested in growing its global footprint than establishing a franchise outside of the United States. While the NFL plans to spread its International Series out, London sells out every game sent its way, keeping the city as the hub of international play in the NFL’s long-term plans.

Zachary Knerr is a contributor to Pro Football Network. You can find him on Twitter @ZachKnerr

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