NFL selects 3 German cities to bid to host regular-season game

LONDON -- The NFL selected the cities of Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich on Tuesday to enter a final bidding stage to host a regular-season game in Germany.

Next season is the target for Germany to host its first game, though the NFL's announcement didn't specify 2022 or 2023.

"We had eight expressions of interest from eight different cities, and when we went through the dossiers of those cities we narrowed it down to three that we felt had the stadium to host it, which is an important part, the capacity and infrastructure to host," Brett Gosper, NFL head of Europe and U.K., told ESPN. "Those three cities stood out in that sense."

Germany has a strong and growing NFL fan base and one of the world's largest economies, making the country a logical target for a league with visions of worldwide growth.

"Those three cities demonstrated that they could work together to provide a potential relationship that was deep and long-term that would allow us not just to put a game on once a year but to develop community relationships and maybe set up an academy, and have a far bigger impression on the city than we would otherwise have," Gosper told ESPN.

France, Spain and "the Nordics" are also in the league's longer-term sights to host games, Gosper told The Associated Press last week.

Tuesday's announcement comes during the NFL's return to London after a one-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Atlanta Falcons beat the New York Jets 27-20 on Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which will also stage the game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Miami Dolphins this Sunday.

The NFL announced a bidding process in June.

"We hope to announce the winning city at the Super Bowl, and so that decision needs to be made prior sometime in January," Gosper told ESPN. "So a specialist group will examine those dossiers and work out on a scoring basis and work out our favored city, and then the owners would have to endorse that."

Tottenham's state-of-the-art facility was custom-built to host soccer and NFL games with a capacity of 62,850. There are seven years left on the club's 10-year contract to host two NFL games annually.

The NFL has played 29 regular-season games in London since 2007, and the majority of them have been held at Wembley Stadium, which can hold more than 80,000 fans.

Germany has become a growing source of athletes for U.S. college football programs and had five teams at various times in the former World League/NFL Europe/NFL Europa. New England Patriots fullback Jakob Johnson is German, as is defensive end David Bada of the Washington Football Team.

After Germany, the league's analysis has shown that France would be the next logical European host, followed by Spain and "the Nordics are very strong, too," Gosper said last week. Those markets have high growth rates in viewership and fans, as the NFL tracks consumer figures for products like Game Pass and the Madden video game.

Thus far, the NFL has played 39 international regular-season games: 29 in London, six in Toronto and four in Mexico City.

The NFL plans to return to a schedule of four international games beginning next season, a move facilitated by the expanded 17-game schedule.

The extra game coincides with the league's offer to teams to seek specific international regions for exclusive marketing rights.

Even beyond those four international games, teams could volunteer to play home games abroad especially if they've been granted marketing rights in a foreign city or country.

NFL teams with existing links to foreign regions, for example, might be inclined to play more home games there, as Jacksonville has done in London. The Jaguars have played eight times at Wembley Stadium; Sunday will be their first game at Tottenham.

Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who also owns English second-division soccer club Fulham, made an offer to buy Wembley Stadium three years ago.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.