American football’s NFL recently announced it will increase the number of international games played in each season to eight in 2025 and stage its first-ever regular season game in South America next year.
The South American regular-season game represents a major development for the NFL – the fixture will take place in Sao Paulo, Brazil, at the Corinthians Arena.
That game will fit alongside three in London, UK, and one other in Munich, Germany, to make a total of five internationally for the NFL next year.
Since the NFL first took a regular season game to another country in 2005 (Mexico), 50 have taken place internationally, across the UK, Canada, Mexico, and Germany.
The Green Bay Packers became the 32nd and final franchise to play a regular season game in the UK last year to complete the set for the league.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said: “Bringing the NFL to new continents, countries, and cities around the world is a critical element of our plan to continue to grow the game globally.
“Brazil has established itself as a key market for the NFL, and we are excited to be playing in Brazil and São Paulo for the first time in 2024.”
Why it matters
The NFL has said Brazil contains its second-largest international fanbase (behind only Mexico), claiming over 38 million fans in the country.
The increase in international fixtures is a significant move in terms of the NFL’s global expansion and was unveiled after a vote by the league’s 32 franchises at a recent meeting in Dallas, Texas.
This year, five international games took place, three in the UK and two in Germany (including one in Frankfurt that broke an NFL Network viewing record).
Conrad Wiacek, head of analysis and consulting at GlobalData, said: “Given the success of the NFL international series, the league is taking the next step in its international expansion.
“Successful games in London, Germany, and Mexico have built a blueprint for the NFL to develop new audiences in new markets, and with the popularity of the league in South America, the next logical step for the growth of the league will see games staged in Brazil.
“While the NFL is the most commercially successful league in the US, developing an even greater international footprint provides the league with commercial opportunities, both in terms of media rights and sponsorships. The NFL has looked to innovate in recent years with broadcasts aimed at younger audiences on Nickelodeon in addition to its international games.
“With NFL teams in several markets having strong Latin populations such as Florida and California, the NFL will no doubt see the development of an international presence in Latin America as having long term domestic benefits as well in those key target markets.”
In terms of the expansion of overseas NFL fixtures, as part of the updated resolution, no club will be required to play more than one regular season game outside North America in the same season, unless they specifically choose to do so.
In addition, international games may not take place after week 14 of each NFL season (usually mid-December).
Each club designated to play an international game will then be permitted “to select two of their regular season opponents that will not be eligible to be scheduled as their opponent in an international game."
Through the NFL’s global markets program, the Miami Dolphins have exclusive franchise marketing rights in Brazil, making it the most likely team to appear in the 2024 fixture.
Spain was also in the running with Brazil to stage a future game.
The popularity and appeal of the NFL outside the US continue to grow, and the top American football league is keen to capitalize on the momentum with buy-in from all 32 teams.
Goodell added: “Becoming a global sport is a major strategic priority for the league and 32 teams. Increasing international game inventory allows us to grow our global presence and share our game with exciting new markets to connect with more fans around the world.”