NFL to Return to Mexico City for 2019 Game Despite Moving Chiefs-Rams

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistNovember 19, 2018

FILE - In this Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018 file photo, Mexico's Azteca Stadium is seen from above in Mexico City. What some are calling the NFL's Game of the Year already has made huge headlines by being moved out of Mexico City because of poor playing conditions. Chiefs-Rams is back in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Christian Palma, File)
Christian Palma/Associated Press

The NFL will return to Mexico City for a regular-season game in 2019 after poor field conditions at Estadio Azteca forced the league to move Monday night's game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams back to L.A., per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com: 

Conditions on the field at Estadio Azteca were so bad—due to "soccer games and concerts coupled with a significant amount of rainfall"—that various players on the Chiefs and Rams reportedly considered sitting out the contest if it wasn't moved from Mexico City, according to ESPN.com.

The NFL's executive vice president of international, Mark Waller, released a statement last week, detailing the reasoning for moving Monday night's game back to L.A., per ESPN.com:

"We have worked extensively with our partners at Estadio Azteca for months in preparation for this game. Until very recently, we had no major concerns. But, the combination of a difficult rainy season and a heavy multi-event calendar of events at the stadium have resulted in significant damage to the field that presents unnecessary risks to player safety and makes it unsuitable to host an NFL game.

"As a result, we have determined that moving the game is the right decision, and one that we needed to announce now in order to allow our teams and fans to make alternate arrangements."

It was a major disappointment for both the league and Mexico City, especially considering the matchup between the Rams and Chiefs is one of the most highly anticipated games of the season and a potential Super Bowl matchup.

The Rams are 9-1 behind a dynamic offense led by MVP candidate Todd Gurley (1,390 yards from scrimmage, 18 touchdowns), up-and-coming quarterback Jared Goff and a defense featuring superstars on the defensive line in Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh.

The Chiefs are an identical 9-1 and feature the NFL's most dangerous offense, highlighted by the star trio of quarterback Patrick Mahomes (3,150 passing yards, 31 touchdowns), running back Kareem Hunt (1,091 yards from scrimmage, 13 touchdowns) and wideout Tyreek Hill (55 receptions for 891 yards and nine scores). 

The NFL may not be able to feature such a high-profile matchup in Mexico City next season, depending upon how the schedule shakes out. But the league has made it a priority to return to the city in the wake of this week's disappointing outcome.  

The NFL has an agreement with the city through 2021, while the Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots played in Mexico City last year. The hope will be that this year's unfortunate developments with the field conditions were an aberration in an otherwise mutually beneficial arrangement for the league and city.

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