The NFL will host its first-ever regular season game in Spain during the 2025 season, with a fixture set to take place at Real Madrid’s newly-renovated Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
This move marks the league's ongoing efforts to expand into international markets, as confirmed by officials on Friday.
Following the recent announcement of an NFL game to be held in Brazil next season, the league revealed that the Bernabeu will serve as the venue for a Spanish fixture in the upcoming year.
“Playing a game in Madrid in 2025 highlights the continued expansion of the league’s global footprint and the accelerated ambitions to take our game to more fans around the world,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement.
“We are proud to partner with Real Madrid C.F., a global brand, together with the City of Madrid and Comunidad de Madrid, to bring a spectacular regular season game to Spain at the world-class Santiago Bernabeu Stadium,” he added.
Throughout the history of the league, fifty regular season NFL games have been played internationally, with cities such as London, Munich, Frankfurt, Mexico City, and Toronto having hosted games in the past.
Sao Paulo, Brazil, will also host a game in 2024 at the Corinthians Arena, home to the Brazilian football team Corinthians, marking the first NFL game in South America.
The iconic Bernabeu Stadium underwent significant redevelopment, including the addition of a retractable roof.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez welcomed the move, describing it as a positive development for both his club and the NFL.
“The National Football League’s arrival at the Santiago Bernabeu is a major event in sport history. This strategic alliance between Real Madrid and an organisation of the NFL’s prestige will boost 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," he said.
The announcement preceded Sunday’s Super Bowl in Las Vegas between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs.
NFL officials highlighted Spain's substantial NFL fanbase, estimated at around 13 million, and emphasised that fan enthusiasm in the country played a significant role in the decision to host a game there in 2025.
“We’re committed to Spain for the long term,” NFL International executive vice president Peter O’Reilly said. “There’s 13 million NFL fans in Spain so you know there is a pent-up demand and you have the fan base.”
Regarding future international games, O’Reilly mentioned that France was among the new markets the NFL was exploring, although he clarified that there were no immediate plans to expand the sport to Asia and Australia.
The decision to increase international fixtures from four to eight games per season starting in 2025 reflects the NFL's commitment to expanding its global presence. O’Reilly also stated that the league's preference was for international fixtures rather than the long-discussed possibility of establishing a team permanently overseas.
“That is something that is certainly not imminent,” O’Reilly said of an overseas franchise. “The structure of the league with 32 clubs is working well. Our focus at the moment right now is around what we can learn from the increase of international games each year.
“I’m sure there are interested markets around the world, but our focus on the moment is our expansion of our game inventory, and creating the opportunity of bringing our game to more fans, and not necessarily on team expansion.”