SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The NFL continued to build its global brand on Friday when commissioner Roger Goodell announced Mexico will host a game next season and dangled a carrot to British fans saying a team in London was a realistic possibility.
The National Football League will play three regular season games in London next season and Goodell said he expects that number to rise in the future as the league continues to build a solid British fan base.
The NFL played only one game in Wembley Stadium for six seasons before raising it to two games in 2013 and then to three in 2014 and 2015.
NFL owners had voted last October to extend the league’s commitment to play international regular-season games through 2025, including the option to play outside the United Kingdom beginning with the 2016 season.
“Every time we give our UK fans, and I think this is true on a global basis, an opportunity to engage in football they want more,” said Goodell. “Every year I go back to London and I see the fans are more sophisticated, they understand the game more, they are following it more.
“We expect a big audience in the UK watching the Super Bowl on Sunday. That’s exciting for us.
“I believe in the future we will see more games in the UK. As for a franchise, let’s continue to grow, lets continue to see that excitement, enthusiasm, passion and support continue to develop.
“If it does I think it is a realistic possibility.”
Building on the success of its international series of regular-season games in London, the NFL will return to Mexico for the first time since 2005 when the Oakland Raiders play the Houston Texans on Nov. 21 at Azteca Stadium in the first Monday Night Football game to be staged outside of the United States.
The largest crowd to watch any NFL game was 112,376 in a preseason matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Oilers that was also in Mexico City in 1994.
“We are coming back to Mexico next season. We’re very excited about being back, we have a tremendous following down in Mexico,” said Goodell during his state-of-the-league address ahead of Super Bowl 50 on Sunday between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers. “We believe it will be a tremendous success.”
The NFL also confirmed on Friday that the league was seriously looking at taking the Pro Bowl to Australia and marked out a small number of markets as priorities including Canada, Britain, China, Brazil and Germany.
“We have looked at a very specific proposal and it’s not blue sky reporting,” said Mark Waller, the NFL executive vice president of International when asked about staging the Pro Bowl in Sydney or Melbourne.
“A regular season game is not going to be feasible at least in the present because of travel and logistics.
“But something like the Pro Bowl that is at the end of our season and is a celebration for our players ... is something we did feel is attractive, particularly in the southern hemisphere at that time of year. Whether that’s Rio or Australia it’s definitely something we’re looking at.”
Editing by Larry Fine