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NFL: What next for the NFL abroad?

The NFL's first regular-season game in Germany was so successful that league executives are already discussing expanding the game further into Europe.

London has already proved to be a very welcoming overseas destination for International Series games, staging 33 at full or near-capacity stadiums during the last 16 years. 

Germany could be more important than UK

But this year's German expedition could not have gone much better for the NFL, with officials claiming that they could there were three million ticket requests, as demand far outstripped supply for the 70,000 available seats at Munich's Allianz Arena.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 16/1 Super Bowl chances - overcame the Seattle Seahawks 21-16 in the first part of a four-year deal that all sides hope will be extended.

The league's interest in Germany has blossomed after it surpassed Britain as the NFL's largest market in Europe while it is also the continent's largest economy.

There are more Game Pass subscribers there, sales of consumer products are greater in Germany than in the UK and, while TV rights are comparative, the NFL's official Madden video game sells more copies in the country too.

Research has shown that the UK and Germany each have 3.3 million "avid fans" of the NFL, but Germany has slightly more "casual" fans - some 17 million.

Patriots and Chiefs keen to host German games in 2023

Next year, the NFL's most successful franchise of recent years - the New England Patriots - could be making the trip to Frankfurt for the next Germany-staged game. 

A day after the NFL played its first game in Germany, NBC Sports' Peter King reported Monday that "there are growing indications" that the Patriots could serve as the home team for a game in Germany in 2023.

NFL commissioner Roger Goddell has indicated that the Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs - 17/4 to win Super Bowl LVII - are lobbying to play in the 2023 Germany game.

As AFC teams, both will get to play nine home regular season games in 2023 so it would be an ideal opportunity for one - or both - to host one regular season clash in a territory to which they have been awarded exclusive marketing rights.

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Spain, France and then Scandinavia?

The NFL is already looking further ahead and wants to push its European tour into France, Spain or possibly Scandinavia in the future.

The league's analysis of fan growth and commercial potential puts Spain and France "very much on our radar," according to Brett Gosper, NFL Head of UK and Europe.

Spain has a headstart in the race because the Chicago Bears and 16/1 Super Bowl hopes the Miami Dolphins now have home marketing rights in the country.

A stadium with the potential to host games on an artificial surface will exist there from 2024 after Real Madrid complete their development of the iconic Bernabeu to feature a retractable pitch. 

The Camp Nou in Barcelona currently boasts a larger capacity of 99,000, but landlords FC Barcelona plan to begin a long-delayed renovation project that will last into 2026. 

The city's Montjuic Olympic Stadium, which seats about 56,000, was a former home to the Barcelona Dragons of the now-defunct NFL Europe league.

The Bernabeu looks the better bet as it would mirror the set-up at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which has a long-term deal with the NFL to host London games.

Elsewhere in Europe, the Nordic markets would be next and "Sweden in particular," Gosper said recently, although the country's largest stadium - Friends Arena - has room for only 50,000 fans.

Bernabeu has designs on Super Bowl

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is always on the lookout for new revenue streams and his long-standing desire is to host a Super Bowl at the Bernabeu. 

That would have sounded like a highly unlikely prospect a few years ago, but the success of the International Series in London has changed the landscape of the NFL owners - many of whom were sceptical of it at the outset of this journey almost 20 years ago.

The Super Bowl is the most eagerly-anticipated and followed game on television in all of US sports and it's only pulling away from the competition in those regards.

But the growing appeal for the game overseas could work in Europe's favour as the new audience for the NFL lies beyond America's borders.

Sadly for London, the greater capacity of the sparkling new Bernabeu could leave Wembley Stadium and Spurs' ground trailing in its wake when it comes to a potential Super Bowl venue, although Paris' Stade de France will surely also make an attractive option given the romance of the city to American fans.

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