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Why does the NFL play in London?

We take a look back at the history of the NFL’s International Series and why the NFL travels across the pond.

NFL: London Games- Tottenham Hotspur Stadium Views Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL International Series officially returns on Sunday as the Atlanta Falcons are set to take on the New York Jets at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.

This is will mark the NFL’s first game overseas since the start of the pandemic and will be followed by another matchup next Sunday when the Miami Dolphins battle the Jacksonville Jaguars. These games will mark the 29th and 30th NFL games played in the UK and will continue a near 15-year-old tradition.

The NFL had ventured outside of the U.S. for exhibition games and the NFL Europe minor league from the 1980’s-2000’s, but the idea of playing regular season games on foreign soil began during the 2005 season when the Arizona Cardinals played the San Francisco 49ers in Mexico City. It was considered a success as the Cardinals defeated the Niners at Estadio Azteca in front of over 103,000 fans.

A few years later, then brand new commissioner Roger Goodell and the league officially championed in annual games in London, beginning with the 2007 matchup between the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants and the Dolphins. After five seasons, the team expanded to two London games in 2013, three in 2014, and four in 2017. They resumed playing a single game in Mexico City every year in 2016, bringing the total annual international games up to five.

Every single NFL franchise except the Green Bay Packers has played in London at least once, with the Jaguars having the most appearances at seven. The league has been rumored to expand the series to other sites such as Scotland, Wales, and even Brazil.