The NFL has been on a mission to expand the brand internationally. Today that plan took another step as the NFL is now seeking to play regular season games in Cuba, according to NFL insider Jason Cole.
The NFL International Series started in 2005 when the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals played the first regular season game outside of the United States. Since then, the International Series has expanded to London, with games played at Wembley Stadium. The first game played there was between the New York Giants and the Miami Dolphins in 2007. Eventually there would be two games a year played in London, and now there are three annual games across the pond.
The NFL recently has discussed playing regular season games in Germany and other European nations. In 2007, the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks had agreed to play in the China Bowl, a preseason game in China. The New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have played a preseason game in Japan, so the Far East is a possibility to keep in mind.
But in addition to the expansion of international games, Cole also mentioned the possible 17th game, which is something that this writer is skeptical will ever get arranged. The Players Union has been very opposed to the thought of a 17th regular season game, and the possibility of extended international travel really doesn't help the case for a longer regular season.
This writer thinks it makes sense to try and expand the reach of the league, but do it slowly. Maybe start with a single game in Paris or Berlin on the European front, but this writer would like to see the league go back to China. China has a rapidly expanding economy and multiple cities which could host an NFL game. As technology has allowed more people across the world to experience the NFL that wouldn't have been able to even ten years ago, the NFL should take steps into increasing brand loyalty worldwide, and having games internationally would be a great way to do that.
Perhaps not even jumping straight to regular season games, host preseason games in Asia or other European cities and give those teams a week off after making the journey to and from the destination game. It'd mean less preseason, and this writer certainly thinks the player's union would have no problem with that. But this writer thinks other cities are better options for games than Cuba. Paris and Berlin as well as other European cities have more people and likely better venues. While it is true that it could be a key step in restoring diplomatic ties with Cuba, it's not a hat the NFL has to wear and shouldn't. After having some time of peace would this writer thinks the NFL should go into Cuba.