Mystery surrounds the future of the College Football Sydney Cup after the game disappeared without a trace ahead of the 2018 season.
Sydney hosted the season kickoff contest in 2016 and 2017, drawing respective crowds of more than 66,000 and 33,000 to the city's ANZ and Allianz Stadiums. In late August of 2016, the California Golden Bears defeated the Hawai'i Rainbow Warriors 51-31. The following year, also in late August, the Stanford Cardinal thumped the Rice Owls 62-7.
But the 2017 game was hit by the timing of being scheduled on the same day as the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor boxing match. Fully aware of the scheduling clash, Allianz Stadium operators catered for what was arguably the biggest sporting event of the year by showing the fight on big screens within the venue precinct.
ESPN contacted both the NSW Government [Destination NSW] and TLA Worldwide, the organisations who brought the event Down Under, for comment. Both were non-committal about the game's fate, but agreed the event could be reactivated again in the future.
"New South Wales was first to bring College Football to Australia and the first two Sydney Cup matches were hugely successful," a Destination NSW spokesperson told ESPN.
"There is a strong appetite for the skill and spectacle of U.S. sport in NSW, with the 2014 Major League Baseball season opener, 2016 and 2017 College Football Sydney Cups and 2016 Ice Hockey Classic bringing more than 66,000 overnight visitors to Sydney, injecting over $50.7 million into the local visitor economy.
"Destination NSW continues to engage with sports teams, leagues and promoters around the world to secure the biggest and best sports events for Sydney and regional NSW, including exploring future opportunities for the College Football Sydney Cup."
After repeated attempts to obtain comment from TLA Worldwide, a spokesperson told ESPN the company's American office was "aligned" with Destination NSW's comments.
While the logistics of bringing two entire college squads, from players to coaches, cheerleaders and support staff, isn't without its challenges, Stanford coach David Shaw could not have been more glowing in his assessment of the 2017 Sydney Cup.
"I can't say enough about the experience," Shaw told ESPN after returning home from Sydney in 2017. "It was just awesome ... I wouldn't change the experience for the world. It was outstanding for everybody."
Asked whether he'd be keen to take Stanford back Down Under once again, Shaw highlighted the use of the bye week as a way to ease the travel burden.
"I would love to. It's not just because it's Rice. For me, non-conference especially. I'd take a non-conference game as long as we have a bye before that.
"I think the experience for our guys goes beyond football and to go to the University of Sydney seeing our players connect with not just rugby players, but other people who play American football in another country and being able to talk and communicate was really cool. Awesome."
Ahead of this year's Pac-12 football season, commissioner Larry Scott spoke of the conference's international ventures and certainly didn't rule out the prospect of another school making the trip to Australia while flagging other overseas opportunities.
"Yeah, we've gotten a great reaction to some of our international initiatives. Basketball, we've been playing a regular Pac-12 China game now for a few years, featuring a Pac-12 team against a non-conference opponent to kick off the basketball season.
"As you mentioned, we've had some successful football games in Australia. Based on the reaction from our schools, the experience for the student-athletes has been incredible, our coaches have responded well, and they've asked us to do more of that.
"So, yeah, there are plans in the works to have some more football games overseas in the coming years, and through our partnership with Alibaba, in other words, in China I expect the Pac-12 China game to continue for a while, and looking at other sports as well."