It's no secret the NFL is interested in expanding, and ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio told the "Pat McAfee Show" that he believes the NFL aims to eventually expand to 40 teams. Rumors have been swirling around an NFL team landing in England for quite some time, and the league is scheduled to play five games in Europe this season spread between London and Frankfurt, Germany.
But if the NFL is going to expand in North America, that would mean up to eight new cities would get a football franchise to call their own. So where should the new teams be located? Let's have some fun: Here are my top eight locations in North America for a new NFL team, starting at No. 8 and building up to No. 1. Plus, why not two bonus cities, one of which is across the pond.
Honorable Mentions: St. Louis and London
With the Rams gone, St. Louis welcomed the XFL's Battlehawks with incredibly open arms. In fact, the Battlehawks wound up averaging 35,104 fans at their five home games, which more than doubled the runner-up Seattle Sea Dragons, who averaged 14,983. St. Louis, as Cardinals fans further show, is a terrific sports city with dedicated fans.
London has already hosted numerous NFL games. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has already said the city could support more than one franchise, but that there are a few challenges.
"The question I think is going to come down to, not so much the logistics about travel, that's clearly a challenge, it really comes down to whether you can do it competitively, where the team here or the teams in the States coming over can continue to be competitive and that was the challenge when we did the regular season games," he said at a NFL UK fan event in 2022.
8. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Oklahoma is definitely known as a college football state — between the University of Oklahoma Sooners and the Oklahoma State Cowboys — but that doesn't mean it couldn't pack an NFL stadium immediately. It has the space, the population and the infrastructure to be a wonderful NFL host city, and the closest competing market is over 200 miles south in Dallas. While the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder might have had a down year in attendance due to a young roster and a rebuild, Oklahoma City consistently sold out games during the Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and even Chris Paul eras. It would no doubt do the same for an NFL team.
7. Portland, Oregon
Portland is a beautiful and budding city in the Pacific Northwest, already home to the NBA's Trailblazers and the Timbers of the MLS. Both teams have extremely loyal fan bases, with the Timbers having higher attendance numbers than the LA Galaxy. Located far enough from its nearest competing NFL franchises in San Francisco and Seattle, Portland could absolutely generate strong support for an NFL team. You factor in the possible corporate connection with Nike — a famous supporter of the Oregon Ducks football program — and you have what seems like an easy path to success for a new franchise.
6. Columbia, South Carolina
OK, before you dismiss this as a ridiculous submission to this list, just hear me out. South Carolina is the state with the highest population without a single major professional sports team. It doesn't even have an MLS team. Meanwhile, it has tremendously dedicated and passionate sports fans of college athletics at the University of South Carolina and at Clemson, both with major football programs.
As the capital and smack dab in the middle of the state, Columbia would immediately inherit diehard fans from Charleston, Greenville and Myrtle Beach. Plus, divisional battles between the (North) Carolina Panthers and this hypothetical South Carolina team would create passion and fanfare across the region. The Palmetto State is ripe for the picking for a NFL franchise.
5. Toronto, Ontario
This one feels like an easy choice if the NFL wants to move north of the American border. Toronto is Canada's largest city and already has successful franchises in the NHL, NBA and MLB. In addition, Toronto and nearby Hamilton have successful franchises in the Canadian Football League, with Toronto winning the nation's most recent Grey Cup. Canadians have a love and appreciation for football and the infrastructure to create a great organization in a marquee city. Plus, Toronto is less than two hours from Buffalo, which feels ripe for a rivalry.
4. Omaha, Nebraska
Don't sleep on Omaha people. First off, Midwesterners love their football. Despite a series of down years at the University of Nebraska, the Cornhuskers are still packing in 85,000 fans a game, good for right around a top 10 attendance in college football. These folks know what it is like to be football diehards.
In addition, the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area has a population of over 1 million people, more than enough to support an NFL team. The city has plenty of cool restaurants and great shops; and it does a fantastic job each year as a sports destination, hosting the Men's College World Series. Plus, with the closest NFL franchise nearly three hours south in Kansas City, you don't have to worry about limiting another team's fandom. Omaha is the perfect combination of a small town and a big city that will live and die with an NFL organization if it gets one. Think Green Bay of the plains.
3. Austin, Texas
Everything's bigger in Texas, and it certainly should be a big enough state for a third NFL franchise. Austin is the capital of Texas and is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, with a metro population of 2.4 million. About 100,000 or more fans regularly attend to watch the University of Texas play football on Saturdays, so it shouldn't be hard for Austin to fill an NFL stadium on Sundays. Texas has no state income tax, which would help Austin attract free agents and business clients, and it is quickly becoming a hotbed for tech organizations relocating from California.
Many of these new residents won't feel the affiliation or pull to the Dallas Cowboys or Houston Texans; and Austin is located closer to San Antonio than either of those cities, so it can leverage that city's population for additional fandom. Plus, without a single major professional sports franchise in Austin outside the MLS, there will be relatively little competition for attention when an NFL team moves into town.
2. Mexico City, Mexico
It's time for the league to head south of the border. The NFL's first international regular season game was in Mexico City back in 2005, and more than 100,000 fans attended. Mexico City already has decades of history of strong NFL attendance — and with the largest population of any city in North America, that's a lot of prospective fans. Current NFL teams have captured the interest but often not the loyalty of Mexican fans, but a team of their own would no doubt find a loyal fanbase in Mexico.
Mexico City is renovating its Estadio Azteca to be used as a hosting venue in the 2026 FIFA World Cup, so the facility and infrastructure should be in place for an NFL franchise. The elevation of the stadium, which is 7,200 feet above sea level, also adds a fun element and unique home field advantage. If an NFL home game ends up even close to the feel of a local soccer match in Estadio Azteca, the league has a total jackpot here in Mexico's capital.
1. San Diego, California
I think this is when we play the "Cup" song from "Pitch Perfect." San Diego misses the NFL now that it's gone, and the NFL misses it. This is the No. 1 spot to start a franchise. Just ask anyone who ever played for the Chargers.
Let's be clear: The Chargers' departure to Los Angeles was never the people of San Diego's fault. In my opinion, Dean Spanos is likely the worst owner in major professional sports. Even if you put aside the debt rumors and internal family lawsuits surrounding allegations of misogyny, the Spanos continually failed to make critical investments to their fans in San Diego. After years of making a talented team play in a horrendously outdated Qualcomm Stadium and refusing to make upgrades — in what seemed like an attempt to hold the city and residents hostage to pay for a new facility themselves — the Spanos family moved the team to Los Angeles. Moving the Chargers to a city that already has an NFL organization — and one where you are going to have to pay rent to share the stadium with that other NFL team, when Las Vegas was still an open market — will always seem crazy to me.
But this loss could very well be the city of San Diego's gain. Since the Chargers left, San Diego built a new stadium for the SDSU Aztecs and has since been awarded an MLS franchise to play there. Smart baseball ownership of the Padres took advantage of a lack of major sports competition in the city and invested mightily in star players and stadium upgrades to Petco Park to bring baseball to the forefront in Southern California. It paid off, because San Diego fans showed up by the thousands and are now consistently in the top 5 in attendance in the MLB.
Now the door is open for a fresh start for San Diego and the NFL. It's time to get the dirty taste of the split with the Chargers out of its mouth. With a massive population of fans who feel forgotten about, a desirable city for corporate partnerships, and an opportunity to do a better job capitalizing on the massive amount of international and Hispanic fans from nearby northwest Mexico, San Diego has every ingredient for a new NFL organization. The football fans in that city are looking for a savior. It's just a matter of who and when.
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