The popularity of American Football outside of the United States

Joshua Biers
Modified 02 Jan 2014

Players from the Hyderabad Skykings (blue) and the Bangalore Warhawks (maroon) in an Elite Football League of India (EFLI) American Football exhibition match at the Begumpet Hockey stadium in Hyderabad on November 6, 2013.

As I mentioned in my previous article, American Football is the unquestionable number one sport in the United States. It is the most profitable sports and it is responsible for the most-watched television event in history, the Super Bowl.

Outside of America, the sport isn’t as popular. Basketball, Football, and Baseball are all sports that are more widely watched globally than American Football. However, there are a few countries that count American Football as one of their most popular sports.

America is considered the unquestionable “first tier” when it comes to level and skill of play. They possess the most dominant, skilled players and it isn’t even close. “Second-tier” football nations are Canada, Mexico, and Japan. Canada and Mexico, of course, border the United States so it makes sense that the Americans’ love of football would spread to the countries closest to its border.

Canada has the CFL (Canadian Football League), probably the only other professional football league in the world that can be compared to the NFL. The league features nine teams and has a steady attendance increase (an average of 29,000 per game in 2010) since its creation in 1884. New stadiums have been built and higher salary caps have been allowed as Canadians have begun to join their American counterparts in their enthusiasm for the sport.

To the south of America, Mexicans have been playing American football since 1896. The sport grew in popularity in the 1920s, as American Football was a common sport in Mexican universities. In the 50s and 60s, American College Football and NFL games were broadcast in Mexico, enhancing the country’s interest in the sport and expanding the American Football market. Since the beginning of the 2000s, the NFL played the first official game outside of the U.S. on Mexican soil, in a game featuring the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers that were watched by 103,467 fans, an NFL attendance record. With a national team, Mexico joins Canada as “second-tier” football nations.

“Third-tier” American Football countries consist of states that have an American Football presence and/or professional league, but have yet to break out within that country. European countries such as France, Austria, and Germany are all considered “third-tier” American Football countries, as they do have professional leagues, but are not very popular.

Today, countries such as India are beginning to create their own American Football leagues (in India’s case, the league is the EFLI). The sport is gaining traction in popularity and one can expect it to become a true global sport within the next decade. Until then, all we can do is sit back and watch the global expansion of America’s favorite sport.

Published 31 Dec 2013
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