Around the world in four downs: A history of NFL games played outside the USA
The NFL is the most popular sports league in the United States but it also has a massive global following. The league hosts games every year in London and it was reported this week that the NFL is looking to go to Spain in the near future. Spanish football club Real Madrid is keen on hosting a game at the famed Santiago Bernabéu stadium.
According to El Confidencial, once the renovations at the Bernabéu are completed in 2022, the club's leaders will hold talks with the NFL to host a game at the iconic stadium. The popularity of the NFL has grown significantly over recent years in Spain.
One tentative plan is to host an NFL regular-season game in Madrid between 2023 - 2025.
An NFL game in Germany first?
The NFL is seeking to continue its global expansion plans by playing a game in Germany. Around the NFL reported there are plans to stage a game at Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena in 2022 or 2023.
As the league continues to expand its global reach, let’s look at the history of NFL games that have been played outside of the United States.
Canada: 1950 - 1961
Back in 1950s, NFL teams traveled to Canada to play CFL teams. They played mixed-rule games in Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal. The NFL teams won all games.
Bills Toronto Series: 2008-2013
The Buffalo Bills played one pre-season game and one regular-season game at Rogers Center in Toronto every year between 2008-2013. There were reports that Bills owners were interested in relocating the franchise to Toronto during this time.
Tokyo: 1976 and 1989
The San Diego Chargers played the St. Louis Cardinals in an exhibition game in Tokyo in August 1976. The NFL returned in 1989 with another exhibition game between the L.A. Rams and the San Francisco 49ers.
NFC North rivals the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears played an NFL exhibition game in Goteburg, Sweden, on August 15th, 1988.
London: 2007 - onwards
On October 28th, 2007 at Wembley Stadium in London, the Miami Dolphins played the New York Giants in the first regular NFL game held outside of North America.
Since 2007, there has been at least one NFL regular-season game held in London. The Covid-19 pandemic meant that there were no games played overseas in 2020 but the Falcons and the Jets are both scheduled to host games in London at Tottenham Hotspur's new stadium this season.
Mexico: 2005, 2016 - 2019
The Arizona Cardinals defeated the San Francisco 49ers by a score of 31–14 at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, on October 2, 2005. It was the first regular-season NFL game held outside the United States. The game drew the NFL's highest game attendance at the time with 103,467 spectators.
On November 21, 2016, the Oakland Raiders played the Houston Texans in the first NFL regular-season game to take place in Mexico in 11 years.
The NFL has since scheduled three more games in Mexico featuring the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, Los Angeles Rams and Chargers. It has been reported that the Arizona Cardinals are interested in hosting games at the Estadio Azteca in the future.