The NFL will add a fourth game to its London series next season, the league announced Friday, in the latest sign of its growing commitment to expansion in international markets.
This marks the first time that the NFL has scheduled four regular-season games in the United Kingdom in a single season. The league has played three sellout games in London every year since 2014.
"We continue to be incredibly excited by the passion and love for the NFL shown by our millions of UK fans," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "London is an amazing city. We have had tremendous support from our fans, from Mayor Khan and other government leaders and business partners, and we are looking forward to taking the next step in the UK by playing four games in London next season."
League officials have repeatedly targeted international growth as a key element of Goodell’s goal of reaching $25 billion in annual revenue by 2021. Aside from its London series, the NFL played a primetime “Monday Night Football” game last month in Mexico City. The league has also explored adding contests in other countries, including Germany and China.
The NFL will announce which teams will participate in next season’s London series live on the league’s Facebook page (NASDAQ:FB) on December 13. The league says it has a U.K.-based fan base of more than 13 million people.
The games will be played at Wembley Stadium, which has hosted the vast majority of London-based games since the series began in 2007, and at Twickenham Stadium, home to the English national rugby team. Starting in 2018, the NFL is committed to playing at least two games per season at a new multisport stadium, as part of a deal with Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, in a statement, said hosting what would be the equivalent of half a home team’s games in the city is a “huge step” toward his goal of bringing a franchise to the U.K. capital.
"London staging a fourth NFL game is fantastic news -- not only for the millions of sports fans who get to enjoy our iconic stadiums -- but also because it confirms our status as the go-to choice for hosting the world's biggest sporting events," Khan said.
Ultimately, the NFL is aiming to expand its London series to a full slate of eight regular-season games – the equivalent of a full season of home games – in order to test the city’s viability as a potential home for a permanent franchise.
“I’ve always felt strongly that if you can show that there was demand for a full season of games, you can show that you have a fan base that truly is passionate and big enough to sustain a team if ever got to a point where we wanted to put a team there,” Mark Waller, head of the NFL’s international division, told FOXBusiness.com last September.