America’s professional sports leagues go overseas

Fans cheer for the Los Angeles Chargers. The team faced the Tennessee Titans in London’s Wembley Stadium in 2018. (Photo sourced from Unsplash)
Fans cheer for the Los Angeles Chargers. The team faced the Tennessee Titans in London’s Wembley Stadium in 2018. (Photo sourced from Unsplash)

America’s major sports — football, baseball and basketball — are a cornerstone of the country’s culture. The major leagues that operate these sports, the NFL, MLB and NBA, have, for a long time, focused their attention on America. In recent years, however, the leagues have started to spread out across the world to help grow their fan bases outside of the U.S.

Football has long been considered an American-only sport. Known as American football in other countries, football has struggled to build a fanbase outside of the U.S. In recent years, however, the NFL has started visiting sites outside of the country to play some of their regular season games. 

The first international city that the NFL visited was London, when the New York Giants took on the Miami Dolphins in Wembley Stadium in 2007. Since then, there has been at least one game played in London each season, minus the 2020 season due to the pandemic. 

On top of the NFL regularly hosting games in London, teams have recently started to play in Germany as well. Last season, NFL teams traveled to Munich to play the league’s first regular season game in the country, and this season saw the NFL head to Frankfurt for two games, which were highly requested by fans. According to the New York Times, tickets to all three Germany games sold out in minutes, and 3.6 million Germans claim to be avid fans of the NFL. 

Along with teams playing regular season games overseas, many teams now have international marketing rights in other countries. For example, the Jacksonville Jaguars have marketing rights in the United Kingdom. The Jaguars have played in London 11 times, which has helped the team build a sturdy fanbase in the country. 

The MLB overseas tour is about to pick up for the 2024 season. The MLB first played overseas in 2000 when it visited Tokyo for the season opener, and it has been going to London since 2019 as well. This upcoming season will see baseball visit London again, as well as Seoul, Mexico City and Santo Domingo. The MLB season opener will be played in Seoul, when the Los Angeles Dodgers take on the San Diego Padres. 

American professional basketball teams have been going overseas for a while now. The NBA first played a regular season game internationally when the Phoenix Suns took on the Utah Jazz in Tokyo in 1990. Since then, it has organized 32 other games overseas. 

The international series made a return last season and will be continued this year. The first international game will be played in Mexico City on Thursday, Nov. 9, when the Orlando Magic will go up against the Atlanta Hawks. Another game will be played in Paris when the Brooklyn Nets take on the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

American sports’ popularity outside of the U.S. continues to grow, so it is only fitting that the professional leagues begin visiting more and more countries.

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