The National Football League (NFL) was founded in 1920 in Canton, Ohio, calling itself American Professional Football Association (APFA). This was later changed to the NFL in 1922. Ten teams from four states competed in that first year, and only two of the original franchises remain: the Decatur Staleys (Chicago Bears) and the Chicago Cardinals (Arizona Cardinals).
The NFL underwent years of instability as rival organizations sort to became the dominant professional football league. The American Football League (AFL) came closest to winning that battle in the 1960s, until they completed a merger with the NFL in 1970. This created a 26-team competition which has since expanded four times, to its current total 32 teams.
A look at the latest NFL futures shows how tight this season is going to be, as recent results suggest that this year could be closer than ever, with several teams believing more than ever that they are set for a Super Bowl appearance.
Growth of the NFL
Since the 2007 season, the NFL has been playing at least one regular season game abroad each year. What began as an annual event called the NFL International Series, has now grown to multiple contests, with four regular season games every year.
During the 2021 offseason, the NFL made a major change to its schedule by increasing the league season to 17 games. The expansion – the first since 1978 – replaces the 16-game schedule that had been used for the past 43 years.
As part of the 17-game expansion, each team is required to stage at least one international game every eight years. Beginning this season, up to four of the teams from the conference whose teams are eligible for a ninth regular-season home game, will now play one international game each year.
There have been 41 regular-season international games in the history of NFL, with 31 in London, 6 in Toronto, and 4 in Mexico City. This season’s international fixtures are:
2022 Vikings vs Saints Tottenham, London (England)
2022 Giants vs Packers Tottenham
2022 Broncos vs Jaguars Wembley, London (England)
2022 49ers vs Cardinals Azteca (Mexico)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Seattle Seahawks on 13th November, will be the first regular season game in the history of the NFL to be played in Germany, as the game builds on its success in England and continues to try and grow beyond its North America base. There are rumours of Brazil and Canada joining that list in the near future.
NFL teams have been relocating to new cities ever since the league was formed. The majority of teams have moved at least once in their history as ownership has changed hands and opportunities open up elsewhere.
Teams that may relocate:
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- L.A. Chargers
- New York Jets
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Tennessee Titans
Whether it’s a change of owner, the need for a new stadium or empty seats, franchises move on in search of more money, more fans and better facilities. So where could these teams potentially locate to?
Candidate Cities for NFL Franchise
- St Louis
Relocating a franchise internationally seems the obvious next step for NFL growth. The reaction in England to international games has been a huge success with sell-out crowds and a growing fan base.
Jacksonville Jaguars owner, the billionaire Shahid Khan, already owns a London based English Premier League football team, and he seems the obvious choice to push through a move should the opportunity arise.
Another area for potential NFL growth is an increase the number of teams in the league. If owners can be shown a financial benefit by adding more franchises to the schedule, don’t expect them to vote against the proposal any time soon.
One area that has hugely benefitted the growth in the NFL is technology. From fans watching on smart phones, the growth of fantasy football thanks to improving data collection, in game betting via sportsbooks, and more. Technology is fuelling the fire.
Social media and the internet allow teams and players to communicate and interact with fans like never before. Streaming and TV deals make viewing the NFL not just in America, but around the world, a whole lot easier.
Improvements in technology in the world of television allows super crisp pictures and improved camera angles that get viewers in amongst the players and feeling part of the on-field action.
18 Game season?
NFL players have the right to stop another game being added to the schedule, so no matter what owners may want, the 18-game season isn’t happening anytime soon. Injury concerns, player safety and burn out are all part of their concerns, plus players will need to see how a 17-game season pans out before committing to 18.
But with TV ratings booming and the NFL more popular than ever, team revenues are increasing substantially. If owners to dangle the carrot of higher wages and a bigger piece of the pie in front of players, the 18-game season may just become a reality.