I'm following up a piece I did on potential NHL expansion or relocation cities with one for the NFL. It's rumored that several teams, including the Jacksonville Jaguars, San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders, and (less frequently) the Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings, could be seeking new homes. It's also occasionally rumored that the NFL might expand to as many as forty teams
Of the 51 or so cities with pro franchises, the NFL already has teams in 31 or 32 of them. Most of the places it doesn't are in Canada (Montreal, Edmonton) or relatively close to existing franchises (San Jose, Columbus, Raleigh, Memphis). Despite this, here are five likely places and five long-shots that could end up with NFL franchises.
Here are five cities (the ones in light brown on the introductory map) that I see as long shots. Most of these cities would have to construct new stadiums, and many are in small markets.
Portland, Oregon: One of the largest markets without an NFL team; I see it as an also-ran because of its proximity to Seattle (it seems a debatable point whether the Northwest can support two teams) and also its propensity to adapt Multnomah/Civic/PG&E/Jeld-Wen Field rather than actually build a new stadium—a stadium that would be needed for an NFL team.
Las Vegas: A medium-sized market that has no pro sports teams; the largest market without pro sports. Why it's an also-ran? Because the Big Four is wary of putting a franchise in Vegas due to legalized gambling there. Also, a new (probably retractable-roof) stadium would be needed.
Honolulu: The site of the annual Pro Bowl, a team in Honolulu could potentially draw from Asian and Pacific markets (remember, football is big in Hawaii, and in places like Samoa). Obviously, not a hugely viable option because it's a smaller market, needs a replacement for Aloha Stadium and is a six-hour plane ride from any other franchise. But, I think there eventually will be a major pro franchise of some kind in Honolulu (especially if we end up with 40-team leagues instead of 30-team ones), and football would make the most sense because it involves weekly travel rather than daily travel.
Birmingham and Louisville: Kentucky and Alabama are in football-rich markets completely devoid of Big Four sports. However, they are small markets, close to other franchises, and would both need to build new stadiums. They seem like possible options if the NFL goes up to 40, but not really if it stays at 32 and moves some teams around.
No question about this one. The one large market without an NFL team is Los Angeles. Including Orange County, Ventura and Inland Empire, there are 17 million people in Los Angeles. Other conceivable markets don't even have five million. And with Farmers Field near LA Live almost ready to be built, it's possible the Chargers or another NFL team could be here in the next couple of years.
San Antonio built the Alamodome to attract an NFL Team. It got a basketball team, a CFL team for one season, and the Saints for a few games. Texas already has two pro franchises, and between two to four big-time college teams. Since football is huge in Texas, I think it could support a third NFL team. And since NFL teams do often involve convoys from afield to see the game, you can add in the Austin market to get a large enough market.
The L.A. area has two baseball teams, two basketball teams, two hockey teams, two big-time college teams and two soccer teams. It can support two football teams, either a second one in Farmers or one at the stadium in Industry that Ed Roski had in the works. There is even talk of putting a new stadium in Orange County. Market size? No problem! As said earlier, 17 million in L.A. metro, and if one of the teams that moves here is the Chargers, you can throw in the San Diego market and an additional three million.
Toronto: Not just for hockey, CFL, and one Bills game
The NFL has been flirting with Toronto for years, its latest entry being having the Bills play a game there every year. Toronto's SkyDome is already CFL/NFL ready. Yeah, I know Toronto's got the CFL, but it's a big enough market (bigger than any market without an NFL team save L.A.) and an American enough market to justify an NFL team. Especially if the Bills move. And with a 39-year-old stadium in a tiny market that has to borrow fans from Canada, I think that's a distinct possibility.
Football in Oklahoma?
Oklahoma City and Vegas seem to have be the hot expansion/relocation topics for the last few years. Oklahoma City now (unfortunately) has the Thunder, and isn't a big enough market to accommodate much more than that. However, football is really big in Oklahoma, so adding a football team would make some sense. They would need a new stadium, but they could use Gaylord/Oklahoma Memorial in the interim.