February 23, 2024

American professional sports expand on a global level

The United States of America has three known professional sports leagues: the National Football League, National Basketball Association, and Major League Baseball. The three leagues combine to have 90 teams in 43 different United States cities and two teams in Toronto, Canada. While there are other leagues within the country, none have the same cultural impact as the NFL, NBA and MLB.

The three leagues have recently expressed the interest of expanding their influence to the rest of the world.

While the NBA and MLB each have a team in Toronto, the NFL’s 32 teams are located in the continental U.S. American football is a sport that rapidly grew in the US in the late 1860s while the rest of the world has slowly grown interested in the American sport. American football has leagues/federations established on all six inhabited continents, but none are as prevalent as the NFL. The past few years, however, the NFL has begun attempts to globalize the sport that draws $10 billion annually. In 2007, the NFL launched the “NFL International Series”. Each year, the NFL sends two teams to play in London, England. 

This season, teams have traveled to London, England, Munich, Germany, and will play in Mexico City, Mexico on Monday. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell expressed plans to play at least four games in Germany through the year 2025. This comes after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Seattle Seahawks played a game in Munich, Germany, with 69,000 fans in attendance. The game went viral after the German fans sang along to “Country Roads” by John Denver, and stayed in their seats for almost an hour after the game ended. The NFL is also looking to expand games to countries including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Ghana and France. In addition to the games in other countries, the NFL also hosts an international combine. The combine allows players from all over the world to put their skills to the test in front of NFL team owners.

The NBA is following in the footsteps of the NFL as they have scheduled two regular-season games outside of the U.S. and Canada for the 2023 season. On Dec. 17, the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat will square off at the Arena CDMX (Ciudad de México) in Mexico City. Jan. 19 will see a match up between the Chicago Bulls and the Detroit Pistons at the Accor Arena in Paris, France. The NBA is looking to expand games to more international cities as international superstars have begun to dominate the league.

Major League Baseball is not far behind the other two leagues in their attempts to expand globally. Fortunately for the MLB, baseball continues to have a strong influence in most Latin American and Asian countries. The MLB has seen young stars from Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Japan, and the Dominican Republic become the face of the league over the past few years. 

The San Francisco Giants and the San Diego Padres will play a two-game series in the “Mexico City Series” in April 2023. The MLB also has plans to play games in Paris, France, starting in 2025. The games will become the first regular-season MLB games in mainland Europe. London will also see a return of the “MLB London Series” in 2023, but the teams have yet to be announced. Tokyo, Japan, has also been announced as a potential site for a to-be-determined date between 2023 and 2026.

Sports are universal. Every country has a sport they care deeply about. The US has three national leagues that have grown in popularity worldwide, and they are just getting started.