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NFL international expansion: League considering game in Middle East in addition to Australia, per report

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The NFL is trying to take the next step in global expansion. After having three regular season games in Germany over the past two seasons and having the first-ever game in Brazil set for Week 1 of this year, the league is considering a hoard of new countries for future international sites. 

Per the New York Times, the NFL is considering a game in the Middle East — which would likely be Abu Dhabi. The NFL has never played a preseason game in the Middle East during the “American Bowl” era, so this would be the league’s first venture in the Middle East. 

The league is also considering games in Japan and Italy, and this is in addition to Peter O’Reilly (the NFL’s head of international affairs) revealing at the NFL Spring Meetings that Australia is under consideration to host a game — likely in the next two seasons. 

Abu Dhabi has been no stranger toward hosting North American sports, as the NBA has hosted preseason games there. An NFL regular season game would be a first for the city in regards to hosting the four major North American sports. 

When the NFL had international preseason games, dubbed the “American Bowl,” the Tokyo Dome hosted the event 12 times — the most of any of the “American Bowl” hosts. If the NFL played a regular season game in Japan, the Tokyo Dome would likely be a candidate. The Osaka Dome in Osaka also hosted an “American Bowl” in 2002. 

Italy has never hosted an NFL game of any variety, so going to the country would be a first for the league. As for Australia, the league hosted an “American Bowl” at Stadium Australia in Sydney in 1999. France and Ireland are also in consideration; the league has never hosted a game in France but had an “American Bowl” at Croke Park in Dublin in 1997. 

Why so many new locations for international games in the coming years? Beginning in 2025, the NFL will be able to schedule up to eight international regular season games per season. The current collective bargaining agreement allows up to 10, but perhaps that’s expanded in the next CBA (NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell even hinted at 16 games in 10 years).

With more games come new locations, instead of running it back in London every year. The NFL is looking at global expansion, not leaving any stone unturned. 

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