Two league sources confirmed Tuesday that the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers will meet in an Oct. 2 regular-season game in Mexico City. The matchup, first reported by The Arizona Republic in its Tuesday editions, will be the NFL's initial regular-season game played outside the United States.
The lone remaining element to be addressed is firming up some details with television partners in Mexico, a league source said, and that is considered a formality. The NFL expects to formally announce the game, the potential for which was first broached by commissioner Paul Tagliabue at his pre-Super Bowl news conference, within the next two weeks.
When the commissioner mentioned the possibility of a game outside the United States borders, the reality of such a contest was not considered imminent. But the Cardinals, whose fan base includes a considerable Hispanic following, volunteered to play the game in Mexico City.
In so doing, the Cardinals will essentially forfeit a home game, and against an NFC West division foe. Clearly, however, Cardinals ownership feels the opportunity is an attractive one for their franchise and the rest of the NFL as the league continues to try to broaden its fan base and expand potential revenue streams.
"About 27 percent of our fans are Hispanic," Cardinals vice president Michael Bidwill told The Arizona Republic. "We think playing a game in Mexico City would be a great opportunity for us to continue to cultivate our Hispanic base as well as to develop new fans. It would be an historic and unprecedented event."
Pending an announcement of the game, which could come at the annual NFL meetings in Maui next week if television contracts in Mexico are completed, the Cards have delayed mailing invoices to season ticket patrons. Playing the game in Mexico City, of course, would affect ticket prices because Arizona would play just seven regular-season games in Sun Devil Stadium.
The league would like to make an international regular-season game an annual event. But, as one league source noted, it might be difficult finding volunteers every year who are willing to forfeit a home contest. The Cardinals annually rank among the league's poorest teams in terms of annual home attendance and that almost certainly played some part in their decision to volunteer for the Mexico City contest.
There have been six preseason games played in Mexico (five in Mexico City and one in Monterrey), including three in the past seven years.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.