- Move marks first change to NFL regular season since 1978
- Plans also in place for each team to play overseas once every eight years from 2022
- In addition, Goodell expecting to have “full stadiums” for the upcoming 2021 season
Each National Football League (NFL) team will play a 17-game regular season from the 2021 campaign after franchise owners approved plans to expand the schedule.
The move to a 17-game schedule has been expected since March last year, when the players agreed to an expanded regular season as part of their new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the league.
As well as increasing the regular season slate, Tuesday’s decision also means that the preseason schedule will be reduced from four games to three.
It marks the first change to the NFL’s regular season structure since 1978, when the league increased the number of fixtures from 14 to the current 16-game schedule.
“This is a monumental moment in NFL history,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. “The CBA with the players and the recently completed media agreements provide the foundation for us to enhance the quality of the NFL experience for our fans. And one of the benefits of each team playing 17 regular season games is the ability for us to continue to grow our game around the world.”
As well as making changes to the regular season schedule, the NFL has confirmed that all 32 clubs will play one of their home fixtures overseas at least once every eight years from 2022.
The league has committed to staging at least four games internationally every season from next year, with a focus on Canada, Europe, Mexico, South America and the United Kingdom.
Meanwhile, Goodell has also given hope that NFL stadiums could be back at full capacity for the 2021 season, which is scheduled to start on 9th September.
“We are also discussing our plans to welcome back all of our fans for the 2021 season across the country at all NFL stadiums,” he was reported as saying on a conference call.
“All of us in the NFL want to see every one of our fans back. Football is simply not the same without fans, and we expect to have full stadiums in the upcoming season.”