NFL Approves London Games for Jaguars, Falcons and Raiders in 2014

Alex EspinozaCorrespondent IIIOctober 8, 2013

The NFL will continue to expand its global reach next season, as commissioner Roger Goodell announced on Tuesday the league will host a trio of regular-season games at London's Wembley Stadium in 2014. Ian Rapoport later shared the three "home" teams that will travel to England next year: offered a statement from Goodell, who hopes to build on the rapid growth in popularity of American football overseas:

Our fans in the UK have continued to demonstrate that they love football and want more. Both of this year's games in London sold out quickly. The fan enthusiasm for our sport continues to grow. By playing two games in the UK this year, we are creating more fans. We hope that with three games in London next year we will attract even more people to our game.

The International Series, featuring regular-season games at Wembley Stadium, has been around since 2007 and is under contract through at least 2016, per Next year will mark the first season that three regular-season games will be played overseas.

Sep 29, 2013; London, UNITED KINGDOM; General view of Wembley Stadium during the NFL International Series game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Vikings. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

A crowd of 83,518 fans attended this year's Week 4 matchup at Wembley, when the Minnesota Vikings handed the Pittsburgh Steelers a 34-27 loss. The Jacksonville Jaguars and San Francisco 49ers are slated to face off on Oct. 27 in the second and final game of the 2013 International Series.  

Judging from the reactions of players who made the most recent trip across the pond, the experience offers challenges and benefits. Understandably, the Vikings were feeling a bit jet-lagged upon reaching London, with safety Harrison Smith telling USA Today's Tom Pelissero, "I didn't realize how much (the sleep deprivation) would affect recovery from the previous game. I don't care how much treatment they give us. Nothing beats sleep."

But Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson enjoyed his stay in a new environment, visiting a World War II bunker and sharing his love for the London crowd after the game:

Overall, it looks like a smart move for the NFL to embolden its international presence. Despite the league's monumental popularity in the United States, the league is light years behind other leagues like European soccer, MLB, the NBA and NHL when it comes to a global player pool and fanbase.

Football across the pond is nothing new for the Jaguars, who have embraced the International Series under new owner Shahid Khan, who is also the owner of English Premier League soccer club Fulham. The Jaguars have agreed to play one game in London in each of the 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons, per's report.

Sitting at 0-5 this year, last place in the AFC South, Jacksonville is currently in the midst of a rebuild and is trying to establish some identity.  The franchise has struggled to get fans to come to games for several seasons, resorting to free beer giveaways in recent weeks.  Rumors have suggested the Jaguars could eventually move to London.

For their part, Wembley Stadium officials have been receptive to hosting an NFL franchise and also are interested in featuring the Super Bowl sometime.

The Oakland Raiders, meanwhile, feature a pair of Brits on the roster in defensive lineman Jack Crawford and offensive tackle Menelik Watson. It will mark the first time in both Raiders and Atlanta Falcons franchise history that they play a regular-season game outside of the United States.

Quarterbacks Terrelle Pryor and Matt Ryan should put on a show for fans next season.