Rob Manfred Speaks on Potential of MLB Adding Regular-Season Games in London

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistJanuary 26, 2016

Commissioner of Major League Baseball Rob Manfred speaks during a news conference at a meeting of MLB owners, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, in Coral Gables, Fla. Owners held their last meeting before the likely start of collective bargaining, where revenue sharing, the luxury tax, and the international amateur draft are among the topics management may push for change. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred stated Monday he's hopeful of playing regular-season games in London as early as the 2017 season.  

Ronald Blum of the Associated Press passed along comments from Manfred about a wide range of topics as he heads into his second season leading MLB. When asked about the potential of U.K. games, he sounded optimistic.

"We are very interested in playing there, and we're working hard on that one," Manfred said. "I don't think it will be an opener because of the weather issues. It would be later in the season."

The AP report noted the league has looked at Olympic Stadium as a possible place to hold the event, but details remain limited.

"We haven't really settled on teams, and I don't want to speculate about that," Manfred said. "Obviously, we want to make as good a first impression in Europe as we possibly can."

The league has staged both spring training and regular-season games outside of the United States and Canada dating back to 1996. Those stops included Mexico, Japan, Puerto Rico and, most recently, Australia.

Twice, the league has held an opening series in Tokyo (2004 and 2012) to help kick off a new season. It sounds like Manfred is shooting for something more like the series between the then-Florida Marlins and the New York Mets in Puerto Rico in 2010, which took place in June.

It's all part of the globalization of sports. The National Football League has been holding games in London on a consistent basis since 2007, and there's been talk of moving a franchise to the U.K. within the next handful of years, per NFL Media's Albert Breer.

Expanding MLB's reach around the globe will be a key for Manfred as questions are raised about fading television ratings domestically. A bigger international fanbase would help offset those concerns, and playing games in London in 2017 could help jump-start the process.