The NFL will host a regular-season game in Madrid during the 2025 season, the league announced Friday.
NFL owners voted in December to expand the number of international games each year from four to eight starting in 2025. The first of those additional games will be held at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in Spain.
“As we all know, this is a global city of culture, entertainment arts and certainly a city with a rich sports history,” said Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s executive vice president of club business, international events and the league.
“We couldn’t be more excited to bring the best of our teams, our star players to more than 14 million passionate fans in Spain and to partner with one of the world’s greatest football clubs in Real Madrid ,” O’Reilly added. .
Participating teams are to be determined, but O’Reilly said the designated home team will likely come from the AFC. He noted that the Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins are already part of the league’s current global market program in Spain.
O’Reilly also said that although the league is focused on the 2025 game, “we are committed to Madrid” for a long-term partnership.
“We can learn from each other. We can help each other. We can bring our collective fan bases together,” O’Reilly said of the partnership with Real Madrid. “Our athletes love global football, their athletes love our game. So, from a sporting perspective, but also culturally, this is a big moment.”
Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez also commented on the importance.
“The arrival of the National Football League at the Santiago Bernabeu is a great event in the history of the sport,” said Pérez. “This strategic alliance between Real Madrid and a prestigious NFL organization will promote our brands globally. It will be enthusiastically welcomed by millions of people on all continents and it is an honor to embark on this journey together.”
NFL officials hope the partnership will help grow football games in Spain. They also hope it leads to eventual NFL talent scouting opportunities. O’Reilly noted that teams have a provision that allows a 17th practice squad spot designated strictly for international players.
“An international pathway for players is critical,” O’Reilly said of the league’s desire to identify and develop international athletes capable of transitioning to college and the professional game.
The NFL holds a scouting combine in London, and while there are no current plans for a combine in Madrid, O’Reilly did not rule out a future event of this type. He described the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium’s architecture and technology as state of the art and said he believes NFL teams can learn from the stadium’s planning and design for their future construction projects.
Friday’s announcement is the latest step in the NFL’s plan to grow the game internationally. On Monday, the league announced that the Philadelphia Eagles will open the 2024 regular season in São Paulo, Brazil, at Corinthians Arena.
Eagles to host Brazil game in 2024 season: Goodell
This game will be the first game of the regular season in Brazil.
The game in Brazil will mark the fifth continent to feature an NFL game. Additionally, it will be one of five regular season games played internationally in 2024, with three in London and one in Munich.
In January, the NFL announced that the Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars would each play a game in London and the Carolina Panthers would host a game in Munich.
The league does not have a game scheduled for Mexico City as the Estadio Azteca is currently undergoing renovations.
O’Reilly said Friday that there is “nothing imminent” in terms of plans to expand the international series to Asia or Australia.
(Photo: Blom UK via Getty Images)