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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Inside the NFL Meetings: International Games, Turf Debates, and More

  • Decision forthcoming on additional international game in 2024
  • League also looking to soccer governing body for help on field issues
KIRBY LEE-USA TODAY SPORTS

NEW YORK — The NFL is still considering bringing a 2024 regular-season game to either Spain or Brazil, looking to further activate an international market it hopes can replicate the fan fervor seen in Germany.

NFL EVP Peter O’Reilly said the league is in a review process on both markets as it looks to create an additional international game next year, joining planned ones in London and Munich. 

The international game opening was created when Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca began renovations for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, a situation that also impacted the NFL’s 2023 schedule.

First mentioned publicly last month, a decision on whether and when the NFL will go to Spain or Brazil is expected in December or January.

In either instance, the NFL is aiming for a market response similar to that of Germany, which has seen a run of instant sellouts and massive spikes on merchandise and secondary ticket markets.

“There’s real opportunity,” O’Reilly said. “Germany is a unique market with the history of NFL Europe and how strong the American football legacy is there, but the reason we’re looking at Brazil and Spain is based on the size of the fanbases there.”

Turf Battles

Facing rising unrest over the state of its playing surfaces and potential links to player injuries, the NFL is turning to a perhaps unlikely source for help: FIFA. 

The league will seek to engage with the global soccer governing body on field research and best practices, extending efforts to learn more about field composition and its effects. 

The linkage is driven heavily by FIFA’s plan to use NFL stadiums for much of the upcoming 2026 World Cup, which will be held in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium in New Jersey and Texas’ AT&T Stadium have been identified as the leading candidates to host that tournament’s final. 

FIFA is using hybrid grass for the World Cup, contrasting with the artificial turf used in half of NFL stadiums.

“We want to take a look at the variety of surfaces that they have and use some of the metrics that we measure against, things like hardness, traction, [overall] performance,” said Jeff Miller, NFL EVP. “For us, it’s less about grass vs. synthetic than looking at the characteristics of each and reducing injury rates of both.”

Coaching Shift

NFL clubs approved a shift in which all in-person head coach interviews will be held after the conclusion of all divisional playoff games. The move is designed to create a more level playing field for coaching talent, as well as boost diverse hiring.

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