(Reuters) – The National Football League (NFL) said on Tuesday its owners had approved a plan to expand the regular season to 17 games from 16, while all its teams will play at least one international game over an eight-year period.
Beginning in 2021, the NFL pre-season will be reduced to three games from four before an expanded regular season kicks off on Sept. 9.
The decision, which was approved during a virtual league meeting, marks the first change to the season structure since the 1978 campaign ushered in an era of 16 regular-season and four pre-season games.
“This is a monumental moment in NFL history,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “The CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) 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.”
NFL players had agreed to the expanded regular season as part of their current CBA, which gave the league an option to expand the schedule when at least one new media deal was reached.
Two weeks ago the NFL said it had reached long-term media deals with Amazon.com Inc and major broadcast and cable companies that run through 2033.
The NFL also said that from 2022 all 32 clubs will play internationally at least once every eight years and that the scheduling of up to four games per year outside the U.S. will focus initially on Canada, Europe, Mexico, South America and the United Kingdom.
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris