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NFL commits to Estadio Azteca

The NFL has announced plans to return to Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca in 2020 and 2021 as commissioner Roger Goodell also discussed the league’s new stadia in Los Angeles and Las Vegas and a potential new home for the Buffalo Bills.

The league has played four regular-season games in Mexico, with the first seeing the Arizona Cardinals defeating the San Francisco 49ers in front of 103,467 fans back in 2005. The NFL has since held games in 2016, 2017 and 2019.

The NFL was forced to cancel its 2018 fixture at the Azteca after ruling that the pitch presented “unnecessary risks” to player safety. The game between the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs was moved to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum but the league later confirmed that it would return to Mexico City during the 2019 season. Last year’s game at the Azteca saw the Chiefs defeat the Los Angeles Chargers.

The date and time of the 2020 Mexico City game, along with the details of the NFL’s 2020 London games, will be determined when the season schedule is announced in the spring.

This summer will see two new state-of-the-art NFL stadia open, with the Rams and Chargers moving into Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium and the Raiders to begin playing at Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium.

Goodell was asked whether the league is considering kicking off the season with a 5pm game in Los Angeles to mark the opening of SoFi Stadium. Goodell would not be drawn on the league’s plans but said it would factor in the defending Super Bowl champion, the relocation of the three new teams and the 100th birthday of the NFL in order to “create the biggest and best platform” for all those events.

On Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium, Goodell said: “I was out there a week ago, and the stadium is extraordinary, and I think it will be a great new home for the Raiders. We have to put together the biggest stage for all those teams at that moment.

“The way we do that is through scheduling. We do have the flexibility to move the Super Bowl champ to either Thursday or Sunday. But we are required by policy that it be one or the other. We could very well start in Los Angeles on a Sunday to avoid that problem.

“We’re going to be playing primetime games in Los Angeles at some point in time. The likelihood around the first event, as you know there is an acclimation for everybody getting in and out of the stadium. I think it is going to be such a huge event, I’m not worried about a lack of fans there.”

Goodell was also asked about the future stadium plans of the Buffalo Bills. In January 2019, the Bills began canvassing opinions from supporters on whether it should build a new stadium or renovate New Era Field.

Goodell has previously suggested that the Bills need a new stadium in order to remain competitive and has reiterated that either a relocation or a major upgrade of New Era Field is required.

“We all want the Buffalo Bills to continue to be in Buffalo, to be successful,” he said. “A stadium that is going to be competitive with other stadiums around the league is going to be important in that context, and I think everyone is committed to that, whether it is new, significant renovation or whether it is a completely new facility in a new location.

“I think those are things that the group has to settle collectively and to address over the next several months, if not sooner.”

Goodell also discussed the potential of the NFL having a presence in the Canadian city of Toronto. While admitting that Toronto would be a “great city” for a team, he stressed that a stadium that meets the high standards of the NFL would be required. “It’s not enough to just have a great city, which you have,” he said. “You have to have the facility also.”

Goodell was speaking ahead of this weekend’s Super Bowl at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium.

Image: Estadio Azteca