As the NFL continues its attempts to broaden its global outreach by expanding into a greater number of markets, one of the primary avenues of pursuing that goal that the league has looked at is to play more games in other countries.
A handful of games annually do take place in London, England, with the Pittsburgh Steelers having played there in 2013. Another market that the league is actively looking to expand into is Mexico, where there is already a strong fan base, as I have written previously this offseason.
The Steelers are a team that is especially interested in this possibility, as they have the largest fan base of all teams in Mexico—and they have more Mexican fans than a couple of NFL franchises have fans in their home country.
Steelers team president Art Rooney II recently reconfirmed to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler earlier this week that the organization is “continuing dialogue” with the league about a “future Mexico City game”, telling him that he “wants to play it”.
On Thursday, a Spanish website, AS.com, reported that the NFL has agreed to allow Mexico to host five regular season games over the course of a five-year period, beginning in 2017 or 2018, but the league quickly stamped out the report, describing it as premature.
NFL spokesman Michael Signora had the follow to say:
We are pleased with the growth in fan demand and the increased partner support we have enjoyed in recent years. With this in mind, we are actively assessing the opportunity to play games in Mexico. We have visited several stadiums in recent months, and are analyzing what needs to be done to bring games to Mexico.
It is premature to comment specifically as to when this will happen, let alone how many, if any, games might be played.
With the league at least ostensibly confirming, however, a dialogue that exists between the league and Mexico about potentially playing games overseas, this should be regarded as a notable step, and the Steelers are a central figure in this.
Not only are they a premiere franchise league-wide, and a team currently on the rise with an exciting offense in particular, we have seen within our own readership at this site that the team’s fan base south of the border is prolific.
It is worth noting, in case you are wondering, that should the Steelers play a game outside of Heinz Field, they will do so as a visiting team, and not a home team. The organization has an annual 10-game contract with the stadium, which includes two preseason games and eight regular season games, and it would be hard to imagine that can be voided without some kind of clear exception being made.
As I have written previously, it would seem to make a great deal more sense to expand into Mexico than into England. Mexico is our immediate neighbor to the South with a more strongly established fan base. Perhaps the infrastructure necessary for further expansion is a work in progress, but the Steelers under Art Rooney II seem driven on pursuing that course.