NFL owners have voted to add a 17th regular-season game to the schedule for the upcoming campaign — the first time the schedule has grown in more than 40 years.
The league also is reducing the number of preseason games from four to three.
The official confirmation of the long-expected moves comes days after the league agreed to a set landmark, decade-long rights deals with traditional media companies as well as Amazon. The 17th game was a key ingredient in the multi-billion-dollar pacts.
Along with the extra game news, the league also set the date for Super Bowl LVI, which will be played February 13 at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. The new mega-stadium that opened last year hasn’t had fans in attendance for games yet. The NFL officially tapped SoFi to host the Big Game last month.
“With Super Bowl LVI officially dated, I join millions of sports fans and Angelenos in looking forward to February 13, 2022, as we build toward one of the most exciting events in our city’s recent history and near future,” said Casey Wasserman, chairman of the Los Angeles Super Bowl Host Committee.
All 32 NFL teams will play in at least one international game every eight years, the league also said. That’s an upgrade from the many – many – Jacksonville Jaguars games inflicted on innocent fans abroad.
NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero noted the expanded schedule, on top of the new media deals, will trigger the “media kicker” in the collective bargaining agreement between the league and players. That will give players 48% of all league revenue.
“This is a monumental moment in NFL history,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “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.”
Under the new 17-game schedule, the regular season in 2021 will start Thursday, September 9, and stretch to January 9, 2022. The rules for the additional game mean an extra cross-conference matchup between teams of comparable win-loss records will be added. In 2021, the host team will be from the American Football Conference.
The AFC and NFC will alternate having eight and nine home games a season. The one “bye” week without a game will remain in the mix in 2021.
The NFL has also scheduled the Pro Bowl for February 6 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, the new home venue for the Raiders. It opened in 2020 but has not hosted fans for a game as of yet.
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