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Unnamed owner says “there’s going to be an international division”

Peter King and Myles Simmons discuss the NFL tabling Thursday Night Football flex scheduling, but approving the decision to allow teams to to play two Thursday night games in a season.

The NFL’s international experiment eventually will spawn an international division.

Commissioner Roger Goodell first mentioned the possibility for a four-team European division during the 2022 regular season. Via A.J. Perez of, an unnamed owner bolstered the chatter during the league meetings in Arizona.

“We don’t know if it’s going to happen in two years, five years, or whenever, but there’s going to be an international division,” the owner told Perez.

For years, the NFL has dangled the possibility of putting a team in London. With two NFL-ready stadiums (Wembley and Tottenham Hotspur), London could take two teams immediately. Two other teams would, under this scenario, be placed elsewhere in the continent, with one or both presumably in Germany.

“I think what we are focused on is building capacity so if there were that opportunity — whether a club wanted to consider relocation or potentially looking at expansion — we are in that mode,” NFL’s executive VP of club business, international, & league events Peter O’Reilly said this week, via Perez. ”In London, where we’ve been for a long time, and now in Germany, we’re making sure we’ve got the stadium partners, the governmental partners, and the fan support to sustain that possibility.”

It makes more sense to have multiple European teams instead of just one. With four, there would be 12 games among the division rivals every season, limiting the travel obligations of the franchises.

Still, there would be other logistical challenges, from tax rates to exchange rates to finding players willing to be drafted by or sign with or traded to teams on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

In most situations, a road game consists of leaving home on Saturday and returning on Sunday night. For European teams, there would be multi-game trips to the U.S., with players away from home not for one night at a time but for two weeks or perhaps longer. That will make it harder to find players willing to uproot their families, take them to another country, and then leave their families multiple times per year for multiple weeks at a time.

Still, as we’re learning with the doubling of short-week obligations and the inevitable Thursday night flexing, personal inconveniences for players and coaches won’t stand in the way of progress. Especially when progress means profit.

So where would those four teams come from? Even if two are expansion franchises, the other two would be current teams that abandon their current cities and relocate. The Jaguars would likely be one of them, given their current foothold in London. The other one would be determined by market size and stadium situation.

Looking at the current configuration of franchises, there aren’t many obvious candidates. The Panthers could be one.. The Buccaneers, quite frankly, could potentially be another. Again, it will come down to swapping a place where the economics aren’t ideal for a place where a high-end stadium would be full of rabid local fans who would show up and spend money in good times and in bad.

Expansion also becomes an easy way to increase the inventory of total games in a season without making the season any longer. While 18 games seem inevitable, it’s hard to imagine the season moving to 19 or 20. At some point, there will be more games only if there are more teams.

And so 32 will become, sooner than later 34. Then what? Thirty-six? Thirty-eight? At 40, the NFL would have eight divisions with five teams each. That could be the ultra-long-term goal, with 35 teams in the U.S. and five teams in Europe.

The creation of a European division with four teams would be the first step toward a 40-team league. And it’s hard not to think the NFL is closer than most realize to what would be a seismic change in the way the league currently does business.