Could the NFL bring an entire division to Europe?

Picture this: It’s a Sunday afternoon in 2038 and you’re gearing up for an afternoon of soccer. The London Jaguars and the Berlin Buccaneers are playing for the AFC International division title. Mexico City, led by future Hall of Famer Bryce Young – remember when there were questions about him before the draft? – the NFC Americas division has only just completed, but a crucial Game 18 looms with the increasingly dangerous Rio de Janeiro. (Aaron Rodgers hasn’t yet decided where he’ll play next season, but that’s another story.)

Sure, it’s far-fetched. (Well, except for the Rodgers part.) But the NFL of the next 20 years will likely look very different than the NFL of today. What seems unthinkable today is tomorrow’s to-do list. A 40-team NFL…18-game seasons…entire divisions abroad…that’s not exactly likely, but it’s not impossible either, is it?

The NFL has eyed the European market — and the lucrative international TV market — for years; The league has played at least one game outside of American borders every year since the 2007 season except for 2020. Several matches have been held on foreign soil since 2013, six of which were scheduled for last year and five for this year. Let’s put it this way: There’s a reason the NFL hosts games in England, Germany and Mexico instead of Memphis, St. Louis and San Antonio.

The final here could be something more than just a single team settling in Europe. that an unnamed owner has hinted that much bigger plans are already in the works. “We don’t know if it’s going to happen in two years, five years, or whenever,” the owner said, “but there will be an international split.”

Let’s take this incredibly optimistic statement at face value and play it through. How would such a drastic change in the NFL’s America-centric business model work? Expansion, baby, expansion. where two existing teams and two expansion teams have permanent residence in Europe. There are already two NFL-eligible stadiums in London – Wembley and Tottenham Hotspur – and at least one in Germany, with recent upgrades to stadiums in Paris and Rome adding them to the (purely hypothetical) mix as well.

“I think what we are focusing on is capacity building. So if there were that opportunity – whether a club wants to consider relocating or potentially considering expansion – we’re in that mode,” NFL Executive VP of Club Business, International & League Events Peter O’Reilly told Front Office Sports . “In London, where we’ve been operating for a long time, and now in Germany, we’re making sure we have the stadium partners, the government partners and the support of the fans to keep that opportunity alive.”

From a purely logistical perspective, having multiple teams on the continent at once is a good idea: each team could cut a third of its schedule without even leaving the continent. For example, the flight time between London and Munich is shorter than the flight time between Atlanta and Philadelphia.

Combine that with three long “road” voyages (really transoceanic) – add a Thursday game at one end to shorten the overall length – plus a US-based home away from home and the scheduling aspect of a European expansion will a little more manageable.

The NFL visits other countries like Germany throughout the season. Could it establish a permanent presence in Europe? (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

This is the glorious, world-encompassing dream. Reality hits a little harder, starting with the fundamental biological implications of international travel. Have you ever tried working with jet lag? Now imagine trying to outrun a 300-pound lineman with a head four time zones away. Traveling from Seattle to Boston is nothing compared to traveling from Seattle to Europe. (On the plus side, analytics experts who can calculate the effects of travel on a body — and sleep experts who can advise teams on how to prepare their players — will come as the NFL expands into Europe.)

The placement of an American team in Europe effectively guarantees that the entire team spends seven months of the year as a rootless vagabond, hopping from home base to visiting stadium to home base. It would be tough for the families of players, coaches, team officials and everyone involved. Yes, that’s why they make the big bucks – but there’s a lot of bucks in the US too. European teams have to pay a premium to attract players.

The fluctuating exchange rate of the dollar, the tax implications of being an American living abroad, the European cost of living, being separated from friends and family, the sheer culture shock of living abroad – these are all real concerns that come into play when leading a transatlantic team in considers. And while many of these concerns could be addressed simply by freeing up more money by raising the salary cap for European teams, doing so would require the approval of the league’s domestic owners – all of whom would pay more travel expenses and wear and tear – as well.

Then there’s the simplest question of all: How popular is the NFL really outside of America? The NBA and MLB are doing well, as evidenced by the NBA’s global presence and the resounding international success of the recent World Baseball Classic. But football? The most American of all sports? Can this be effectively transferred to European sensibilities? Would it be popular for more than just a one-time annual visit?

The NFL’s International Series games are always a big hit at goal. Seeing the Seattle Seahawks or the Green Bay Packers in a football stadium once a year is an unforgettable experience, whether the stands are filled with European fans or expatriate Americans. But how about a meaningless game against the Browns or Lions in late November?

In addition, there is always the question of where exactly these teams should come from. Would the NFL Expand by More Than Two Teams? If not, which teams – well, apart from the Jaguars – are the most likely candidates for a move? (Tip: Start with the teams that haven’t yet secured multi-billion dollar stadiums. Panthers and Titans fans, watch out.)

Expanding the number of teams in the league will also require rebalancing divisions and possibly adding more than two franchises later. Some NFL observers have speculated that the league’s ultimate goal is 40 teams — eight divisions of five teams each — which is unimaginably large and unwieldy by our current thinking. To our current mindset.

As big as the NFL’s dreams are, the obstacles can be even bigger. But if there’s one institution that can rival the laws of physics, biology and time itself, it’s the NFL. That should be fun to watch.

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