Hours removed from the Buccaneers' dramatic win over division rival New Orleans Saints yesterday, the news was released that Tampa Bay will be part of the NFL's "International Series" for 2009.
On Oct. 25th, 2009, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face the New England Patriots at Wembley Stadium in London, England, for the third instalment of NFL football in the U.K.
Both the Buccaneers and Patriots are defending division champions and both are strong contenders to return to the playoffs in 2008. Tampa Bay is 9-3 and tied for first in the NFC South; the Patriots are 7-5 and a game out of first place in the AFC East. Both teams play in ultra-competitive divisions in which all four teams are at .500 or better.
"Over the past two years, we have seen first-hand the excitement that exists for our sport in the UK," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "The games have helped us to deepen our connection with UK fans as well as create new ones. We are looking forward to another outstanding game in 2009."
The Buccaneers owners, the Glazer family, already have ties with the U.K. The Glazers own Manchester United, the world's most popular and valuable sports team. United have won two consecutive English Premier League titles as well as the 2008 Champions League crown, the most prestigous club competition in the world.
"The Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization is extremely excited and honored to be chosen to participate in the NFL International Series," Bucs executive vice president Joel Glazer said in a statement released by the team.
"We look forward to being part of the NFL's global outreach and playing our great game in front of Buccaneers fans overseas."
As a British Buc fan, I am overjoyed at seeing my team visit. As far as the game is concerned, Tampa are losing a home game, which is unfortunate as the Bucs are 6-0 at Raymond James Stadium this year; and New England will almost certainly have Tom Brady back at full fitness, who is arguably the best quarterback in the league today.
The game will be a difficult one for Tampa Bay, but increasing the brand name in the U.K. while performing to their surprisingly numerous British fan-base will be an exciting prospect.