The National Football League will play two regular-season games in London next season for the first time, with Commissioner Roger Goodell calling it the next step in growing the sport outside the U.S.
The NFL said yesterday the Minnesota Vikings will host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 29, 2013, at Wembley Stadium. The league had previously announced an Oct. 7 meeting in London between the Jacksonville Jaguars and San Francisco 49ers.
“Since we started playing regular-season games in London five years ago, we have heard very clearly from our U.K. fans -- they want more football,” Goodell said in a statement. “We believe that more football will lead to more fans.”
The NFL has played regular-season games at Wembley since 2007, drawing between 76,000 and 84,000 fans for each of those five contests. The league said its U.K. fan base has increased 32 percent over the past two seasons and television ratings for Sunday NFL games are up 154 percent since 2006, the year before the international series began.
The Jaguars have agreed to play one home game in London each year from 2013 through 2016.
The Steelers, who have won six Super Bowl titles, next season will play in London for the first time. The Vikings will make their first trip since 1983, when they played a preseason game at Wembley.
“This is a unique opportunity for the Vikings organization to highlight our brand on an international level,” Vikings Owner Mark Wilf said in a statement.
The St. Louis Rams will host the New England Patriots in this season’s game in London on Oct. 28.
The NFL also said yesterday at its meeting in Chicago that Miami and Santa Clara, California, have been selected as finalists to host the 50th Super Bowl in 2016. The 49ers are scheduled to open their planned $1.18 billion stadium in Santa Clara in 2014.
The host city will be chosen in May and whichever one isn’t selected will compete with Houston for the right to hold the 2017 championship game, Goodell said. South Florida has been home to the Super Bowl 10 times, most recently in 2010, while Palo Alto was the last city in the San Francisco area to host the title game 27 years ago.
“We are excited to bid for the first Super Bowl in the Bay Area since January of 1985,” 49ers Chief Executive Officer Jed York said in a statement. “Nothing brings a region together like a Super Bowl. Now we have to work together to show the new stadium in Santa Clara will put on a great show.”