The NFL International Series has become a regular part of the NFL calendar. It’s a rich history dating back more than 15 seasons. Let’s take a look at when the NFL started playing regular-season games internationally, where those games have been played, and the history of the NFL International Series games.
When did the NFL start playing internationally?
International NFL games have a long history, dating back well before the start of the NFL International Series. However, prior to 2007, the games were part of the preseason. The most notable of these was the series called the “American Bowl,” which began in 1986. The earliest recorded football game played on foreign soil was in 1950.
Between 1950 and 1983, 13 games involving NFL or AFL teams were played outside the United States. Teams played seven of those games against CFL clubs in Canada. Another three games were played in Canada (one in Toronto, two in Montreal). The final three games were played in Tokyo (1976), Mexico City (1978), and London (1983).
The history of the American Bowl
The first game to be considered part of the American Bowl was held in 1986 at Wembley Stadium. The Chicago Bears defeated the Dallas Cowboys 17-6 in the first of eight games played in London — all at Wembley.
In 1989, the American Bowl went back to Tokyo, where it would visit a total of 12 times, with one game in Osaka in 2002. Canada would host four American Bowl games (one each in Montreal and Vancouver, two in Toronto). There were also six games held in Mexico, five in Germany, two in Spain, and one each in Australia and Ireland.
The final American Bowl occurred in 2005. At that point, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke of a new international strategy that the league would adopt. This would end preseason games being played internationally and instead focus on regular-season matchups. That was the birth of the NFL International Series.
Has there ever been an NFL game in Canada or Mexico?
The first-ever regular-season game played on foreign soil was in Mexico City in 2005. The Arizona Cardinals defeated the San Francisco 49ers 31-14. The NFL did not return to Mexico City until 2016 when the Oakland (now Las Vegas) Raiders defeated the Houston Texans 27-20. That would be the first of three games played in Mexico City between 2016 and 2019.
In 2008, the Buffalo Bills started playing one regular-season game per season in Toronto. This series would go on for six seasons through 2013. During that time, the Bills won just one game, losing the other five. In addition, Buffalo played a preseason game in Canada in 2008 and 2010, both of which they won.
Germany will join the fray in 2022
The 2022 NFL season will see Germany host the first of four planned games. The first matchups will see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting a game in the Allianz Arena in Munich. Munich will host this game and one more in the next four years, with Frankfurt set to be the host of the other two games.
According to a report by Peter King, the plan is for the four teams with international markets in Germany to host those four games. Those teams are the Buccaneers, Chiefs, Panthers, and Patriots. However, we could also see those teams play in Germany multiple times in the next four years if they play as the road team during that period.
NFL International Series game history
Since the inception of the NFL International Series in 2007, 28 games went down in London and three in Mexico City. For the first six seasons, Wembley hosted one game a year. In 2013, this grew to two games and then three in 2014, 2015, and 2016.
It was in 2016 that the NFL expanded the International Series to Mexico City. The league played one game in Mexico City in 2016, 2017, and 2019. There was also due to be a game played in 2018 between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams, but the NFL moved it back to LA due to poor field conditions.
The NFL went to four games in London in 2017, utilizing Twickenham Stadium (which they had also used in 2016) to host two of the four games. The NFL would return to just three games in 2018. Yet, the introduction of Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in 2019 would see the NFL go back to four. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic meant no international games in 2020.
With uncertainty around the 2021 season, the NFL planned just two International Series games for the first time since 2013. That number increased back to five International Series games in 2022. The new NFL international schedule sets out the process for a minimum of four games per year. Teams are then able to volunteer to give up additional home games in other years. The Jaguars did exactly that in the 2022 season and appear committed to annually playing one game in London.
History of NFL International Series games
Games played at Wembley Stadium unless otherwise stated.
- 2007: New York Giants 13, Miami Dolphins 10
- 2008: San Diego Chargers 32, New Orleans Saints 37
- 2009: New England Patriots 35, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7
- 2010: Denver Broncos 16, San Francisco 49ers 24
- 2011: Chicago Bears 24, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 18
- 2012: New England Patriots 45, St. Louis Rams 7
- Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Minnesota Vikings 34
- San Francisco 49ers 42, Jacksonville Jaguars 10
- Miami Dolphins 38, Oakland Raiders 12
- Detroit Lions 22, Atlanta Falcons 21
- Dallas Cowboys 31, Jacksonville Jaguars 17
- New York Jets 27, Miami Dolphins 14
- Buffalo Bills 31, Jacksonville Jaguars 34
- Detroit Lions 10, Kansas City Chiefs 45
- Indianapolis Colts 27, Jacksonville Jaguars 30
- New York Giants 17, Los Angles Rams 10 | Twickenham Stadium
- Washington Football Team 27, Cincinnati Bengals 27
- Houston Texans 20, Oakland Raiders 27 | Estadio Azteca, Mexico City
- Baltimore Ravens 7, Jacksonville Jaguars 44
- New Orleans Saints 20, Miami Dolphins 0
- Arizona Cardinals 0, Los Angeles Rams 33 | Twickenham Stadium
- Minnesota Vikings 33, Cleveland Browns 16 | Twickenham Stadium
- New England Patriots 33, Oakland Raiders 8 | Estadio Azteca
- Seattle Seahawks 27, Oakland Raiders 3
- Tennessee Titans 19, Los Angeles Chargers 20
- Philadelphia Eagles 24, Jacksonville Jaguars 18
- Chicago Bears 21, Oakland Raiders 24 | Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
- Carolina Panthers 37, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26 | Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
- Cincinnati Bengals 10, Los Angeles Rams 24
- Houston Texans 26, Jacksonville Jaguars 3
- Kansas City Chiefs 24, Los Angeles Chargers 17 | Estadio Azteca
- New York Jets 20, Atlanta Falcons 27 | Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
- Miami Dolphins 20, Jacksonville Jaguars 23 | Tottenham Hotspur Stadium