More games overseas possible
Mexico, Canada, England and Germany are possible sites.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The NFL will play as many as two regular season games per year outside the United States starting in 2007, with Mexico, Canada, England and Germany as possible sites for starters.
The plan, first announced last month, was approved Tuesday at the recommendation of new commissioner Roger Goodell, who said the benefits of reaching an international audience outweighed the loss of some teams' home games.
"We are talking about a limited number of games that we think will have a tremendous impact," Goodell said. "It's in response to the growing fan interest in our game overseas. There are more and more fans on a global basis."
Mark Waller, senior vice president of NFL International, said the league expected to schedule only one overseas game in 2007.
No specific sites were given for the games. However, Waller said the league hoped to announce the first site by this coming Super Bowl, while the teams would be selected later.
"Germany has a large number of sites as it's just done the World Cup. UK has a significant number of great sites," Waller said. "We know the sites in Mexico and Canada, so there's no shortage of venues that are interested in these games."
The plan would be set up so that teams would rotate over a 16-year period, with each team playing outside the country twice over that span, once as a visitor, the other as a home team. That means a team would lose one home team during that span.
"Obviously the league's going to work out the economics and if we lose a home game, we'll get compensated," said Pat Bowlen, owner of the Denver Broncos. "We're comfortable with it. Obviously we'd like to play in Mexico or Canada and not have to travel to Europe and that's probably the way it would be set up because of our location. But as far as the league's concerned, I think it's a great idea."
In 2005, the NFL staged its first regular season game outside the United States when the Arizona Cardinals hosted the San Francisco 49ers in Mexico City. A crowd of 103,467 flocked to Azteca Stadium, the largest crowd for a regular season game in NFL history.
The league also has played numerous exhibition games overseas for the past two decades. The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks will play a preseason game next August in Beijing.
Waller said the international popularity of certain teams would not necessarily determine who goes abroad. He said people in foreign markets were more concerned with simply hosting a regular season game, rather than exhibitions in which the best players tend see little action.
"The overwhelming preference is the game itself," Waller said.
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