The NFL does not release its schedule until the end of the week, but already details have begun to leak. According to the Daily Mail, the league does not currently anticipate that it will play its international games in 2020 due to concerns and limitations connected with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
In recent years, the NFL has significantly expanded the number of games it plays outside of the United States. Doing so has widened the footprint of gridiron football internationally, especially in the United Kingdom where games at London's Wembley Stadium and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium have garnered record attendance. The NFL has already played games in countries closer to home, including Mexico City's Estadio Azteca which hosted a matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers in 2019.
However, with the pandemic expected to impact the sports world for the foreseeable future, the prospect of playing even domestic games in front of fans this year has become a problematic concept. Accordingly, the NFL appears ready to pull the plug on those games until future years. That decision will materially affect the pockets of the league's international partners, including Tottenham which will miss out on around £4 million as a result of the cancellation.
Though the NFL might not play games internationally in 2020, those matchups should return once the pandemic subsides for good. The league hopes to continue growing the game outside of American borders, and playing games in foreign locations has proven highly effective at doing so. Given the financial benefits of expanding the audience, the long-term approach shouldn't change.
-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. Follow him on Twitter: @by_JBH