The NFL is looking across the Pacific for 2018, specifically to China. With the International Series already established in the UK, and Mexico on board for the next wave, the NFL meeting in Boca Raton was full of conversations about where next for the NFL. China is a huge market for the NFL to expand into, and the LA Rams have initially been earmarked for the China game. Roger Goodell covered this in his speech: “I think the size and the influence of China in the global marketplace is obviously something you can’t ignore,” Goodell said. “You can’t ignore that as a sport or a business or a nation. From our standpoint, we have lots of fans over there and more importantly, potential fans over there.” With intentions clearly set out, we here at RealSport had our interest peaked. Where could the games take place? What’s American Football currently like in China, and what impact could this have? Let’s take a look: American football already has a burgeoning presence in China. With both a formal league, and a fledgling Arena league gaining major traction amongst the massive populations of Chinese cities. The AFLC (American Football league of China) was started in 2013 by two American students based in China. Chris McLaurin and James Fitzgerald took what was 3 teams, and grew it into a formal system for 13 teams. In 2014, the AFLC had 36 registered teams, split between two divisions. Participation is 80% Chinese Citizens. The opening of the NFL Shanghai office, and some major local investment by NFL China has definitely supported the growth of this league. In 2012, there was further investment from the US, with the founding of the CAFL (Chinese Arena Football League. This has grown with exhibition matches, and the first Government sanctioned matches are set to take place in 2016, with 6 teams competing in the inaugural season of the league. The explosive growth of the sport has been driven both by investment from the US in developing a fanbase within Asia, and by passionate individuals working on the ground to grow these leagues from the grass roots. So, where will they play? With International Series games needing to keep up to NFL standards, the current grounds of the local teams simply won’t cut it when it comes to capacity levels. The NFL needs big stadiums to play games in. China just happens to have two very nice examples of globally recognised stadia. Guandong National Stadium Constructed in 1999, and completed only two years later, Guangdong was originally envisioned to play a part in the 2008 Olympic Games. With 80,012 seats, this multipurpose venue is currently being utilised to play soccer matches for both international, and domestic matches. Guangdong is a beautiful Stadium, which the NFL would comfortably be able to dress up for the big day. Beijing National stadium The ‘Birds Nest’ Stadium was the very building which superseded Quangdong. Constructed just before the 2008 Olympics, this monument to modern architecture was the epicentre of the Games that year, with international news beaming images of the venue into homes all over the globe. Currently being used for Soccer matches, and earmarked for the 2022 Winter Olympics, Goodell and co would be more than happy to be able to set up shop in this particular venue. With an 80,000 capacity, and a compound turf from Greentech ITM as the playing surface. This could well be the number one candidate for 2018. Some people have seen this announcement as a surprise move, but it is clear that the NFL has been laying the groundwork for international expansion for a very long time. After the failure of the NFL Europe experiment back in the early 2000s, which appeared to expand aggressively without clear goals or boundaries, the NFL appears to have adapted a much slower growth approach this time around. Spending a lot of time laying the groundwork, and establishing markets before they commit fully to an area. The International Series will continue to grow, and we here at RealSport look forward to scouting out potential locations as the NFL announces them.