NFL Expansion Options: The Four Cities That Should Get Teams
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With New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft pushing for the NFL to expand to London, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to play NFL Commissioner and tell Roger Goodell how to make his $20 million salary and make this happen.
It's obvious that the NFL won't be contracting any time soon, so either one of the 32 current franchises will have to move, or the league will have to expand.
It's no secret the first franchise relocation is headed for Los Angeles. For that reason, it will take at least two billionaire owners to get fed up with local governments that don't give them hundreds of millions more for new stadiums to make a London franchise happen. As we saw in Minnesota, eventually the billionaires win.
The only logical move for the NFL is to move to 36 teams for the symmetry of having six divisions of six teams each. That means the league would need to add four teams. Any sane person will tell you that any NFL expansion starts in Los Angeles, so there is one of the four teams.
If Kraft's vision is to be achieved, London would be next. However, it is extremely unlikely the NFL would place a lone franchise in Europe on an island, so to speak. The league would insist on a "travel partner." It's a big enough question whether or not Londoners would support an NFL team, much less another city that has not had NFL games played annually since 2007.
If London is added, what European city will join it? There is no obvious answer, but Rhine, Germany, would seem to be a good choice. Back when NFL Europe was still alive and kicking, the German teams had the best support, making Rhine, Berlin and Frankfurt the leading contenders.
In fact, by the time the league was on its last legs, five of the six teams were based in Germany.
Besides London, what European city would best support an NFL team?
That leaves Canada and Mexico. The most logical answer would be Toronto, which has a franchise in the three other American major professional leagues. But with Buffalo right across the waterfall, it's more likely that Sean Payton will be reinstated this year. It seems unlikely Montreal, Ottawa or Vancouver would be enticing enough.
That leaves Mexico, and more specifically the third-largest city in the world, Mexico City. That's right, it's bigger than New York by a factor of Akron, Ohio. It also hosted the largest attendance ever at an NFL game in 2005 when more than 103,000 packed Estadio Azteca in 2005.
By adding Los Angeles, London, Rhine and Mexico City, the NFL gets teams in three of the 18 largest markets in the world. Right now, Rhine would be one of the top 10 market sizes in the NFL.
The four teams also work geographically within the current league divisions. London and Rhine make the most sense in the AFC East, while Los Angeles and Mexico City fit into the NFC West.
In that case, the current South Division in each conference would have to be broken up and split among the new East, Central and West Divisions.
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