As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears prepare to square off at Wembley Stadium in London on Sunday, there has been some recent speculation that the NFL wishes to expand.
With the NFL set to play its fifth straight International Game, you cannot help but wonder if the NFL is serious in considering soccer-mad London, England as a target for NFL expansion.
Los Angeles in the process of trying to lure an existing NFL team to California, some people feel that Los Angeles is an automatic shoo-in for its THIRD NFL team—replacing the Raiders and Rams, who left in 1994 and 1995—respectively.
The NFL has also made it clear that it desperately wants either a current team—rumored to be the Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings, Buffalo Bills or San Diego Chargers—or another expansion team to fill the 68,000-seat Farmers Field.
Until a team is officially identified, an NFL team in the City Of Angels is just another Hollywood fantasy, not grounded in reality.
The Buffalo Bills are in the second year of playing an annual “home game” in Toronto’s Rogers Centre and the NFL recently had the Arizona Cardinals play a “home” game against the San Francisco 49ers in Mexico City’s 105,000-seat Azteca Stadium.
With due respect to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, but a team in London is not a very wise or even a logical idea.
While London does have many high-end amenities that the NFL looks for in a potential market, such as the sparkling 86,000-seat Wembley Stadium and a large American ex-pat community that a prospective London team could appeal to, the thought of having a team travel more than 5,000 miles to play four time zones away in the States would make no sense.
Hypothetically speaking, the London Kings—as I can see them being called— would have to travel 5,456 miles through four time zones to play the “Los Angeles Aztecs” in a theoretical Monday Night Football game, then the Kings would have to fly home to England and fly 4,799 miles to play the Seattle Seahawks the next week.
In theory, the “Kings” would fly a total of 20,510 miles—counting round trip miles— to play two road games on the West Coast.
That is an absurd amount of miles to fly in the span of two weeks, the NFL would also have to deal with the additional headaches of international passports, customs and converting US dollars into British pounds.
Another issue is that if local Londoners are willing and able to embrace American football. London is already the home of English Premier League sides, Arsenal, Chlesea and Tottenham.
While a Spurs, Blues or Gunners supporter can passionately debate whether or not their respective team’s forward was off-sides on the pitch, can they understand the American football version of offsides or know what a neutral zone infraction is?
If the NFL does decide to expand globally in the next 10-20 years, Mexico City and Toronto would offer much more realistic and unique markets of their own.
In the case of Toronto, it is already the fifth largest city in North America and the fifth largest TV market, while the 56,000-seat Rogers Centre may appear to be a bit outdated in comparison to London’s Wembley Stadium, Toronto already has a long and proud football history, courtesy of its own Toronto Argonauts of the CFL.
With the Bills playing in Toronto, the NFL has a more accurate read on whether or not that Canada can—or will support a NFL team.
If Toronto is to be considered, it would not only be a smart move, but also a very shrewd move by Goodell.
Toronto already shares a heated rivalry neighboring Buffalo in the NHL between the Maple Leafs and Sabres, a Bills-Toronto NFL “Queen Elizabeth “ rivalry series, would be an instant hit.
As opposed to London, Toronto is only 102.4 miles from the nearest NFL city—Buffalo—and could also form additional rivalries with Detroit, Cleveland, New England and New York.
In the case of Mexico City and its case for an NFL team, the NFL would be able to kill two proverbial birds by expanding south of the border and getting into the lucrative Hispanic-American market in the United States.
While the NFL already has numerous NFL outreach programs targeted towards Hispanics, a team in the capital of Mexico would be an absolute coup.
Because of long-standing fan-bases in Hispanic markets such as Southern California and Texas—beginning first with the Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and Dallas Cowboys—an NFL Mexico City franchise would have two to three built-in instant rivalries.
The last part about playing in Mexico City is that it is the largest city in North America with a population of 23 million, which would give the NFL a foothold in another unique market, and the prospect of holding a Super Bowl in the 105,000-seat Azteca Stadium is sure to tantalize Goodell.
One bad thing about playing in Mexico City is that at an altitude of 7,350 feet—which dwarfs Denver’s altitude of 5,280 feet— and heavy smog—which rivals Los Angeles—may make it difficult for opposing teams to travel and play in La Ciudad de los Palacios.
Despite these minor drawbacks, Mexico City should—and is already on the radar—of NFL global expansion.
If the NFL ever needs advice on how to play in Mexico City, they would be wise to NOT ask the U.S. national men’s soccer team anytime soon.
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