NFL plans more international presence if 17 games approved

FILE - In this Oct. 27, 2019, file photo, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) is sacked by Los Angeles Rams defensive end Michael Brockers (90) and defensive end Dante Fowler (56) during the first half of an NFL football game at Wembley Stadium in London. A person familiar with the deal says the Atlanta Falcons have agreed to sign outside linebacker Dante Fowler. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because free-agent signings can't be announced until after the league year begins Wednesday afternoon, March 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland, File) (Tim Ireland, Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The NFL is planning to expand its international presence with more games abroad in 2022 if the 17-game regular-season schedule is approved.

Team owners meet next week and are expected to rubber stamp the additional game, while reducing the number of preseason contests to three per club. The additional games will be interconference, all of them in current home stadiums.

But next year, the league would take four games from the conference that otherwise would be hosting nine games and designate them to occur at neutral sites, almost certainly outside the United States.

For the first time, the NFL could guarantee that all 32 clubs would play internationally at least once every eight years.

Of course, beyond those four international games, other clubs could volunteer to play home games abroad, as Jacksonville has done except in the pandemic-impacted 2020 season.

Thus far, the NFL has played 38 international regular-season games: 28 in London, six in Toronto, and four in Mexico City. In 2007, the league began yearly games in London, increasing to two matches in 2013, three in 2014 and four in 2017.

TV viewership in such markets as Canada, Germany, Mexico and the United Kingdom rose 4% last season, with record Super Bowl audiences in Germany and the UK. That indicates to the league a hunger remains for its games being staged abroad.