The 49ers Carry The NFL’s Flag Internationally
The 49ers have played in six different countries internationally
The San Francisco 49ers are the NFL’s ambassador for international football.
The NFL will conclude its five-game, 2022 international series Monday night when the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers meet for a game in Mexico City. Three of the first four games were played in London and the other in Munich.
Counting the pre-season, the NFL has played 103 games on international soil. The Buffalo Bills have participated in a league-high 14 of them, but 11 were played just over the border in Canada. Counting Monday night, this will be San Francisco’s league-runnerup 12th international game. The 49ers have played those games in a league-high six different countries: Canada, England, Germany, Japan, Mexico and Spain.
Denver and Pittsburgh are the only other franchises that have played in six different countries. But both have played fewer international games, only nine apiece. The Bills have played their 14 international games in only three countries.
In all, the NFL has played games in nine different countries. Add Australia, Ireland and Sweden to the six countries previously mentioned. The NFL has played those 103 games in 17 different cities, starting with Ottawa in 1950 when the New York Giants traveled there to face the CFL Rough Riders. In fact, the first 10 international games were all played on Canadian soil and seven were against CFL teams.
It wasn’t until 1976 that the NFL finally left North America for a game in Japan. The St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Chargers played that preseason game in front of 38,000 in Tokyo. The NFL played its first game in Mexico in 1978, another preseason game between the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles.
The NFL started playing games in England in 1983, sending the Minnesota Vikings to London to play the St. Louis Cardinals in the pre-season. The Vikings won that game – and all seven games they have played to date on foreign soil. Minnesota has won four times in England and once apiece in Germany, Japan and Sweden. The Bills have been the least successful team internationally, losing 10 of the 14 games they have played.
The smallest crowd to see a game internationally was the 8,212 that showed up in Montreal in 1969 to see the NFL Detroit Lions play the AFL Boston Patriots in the preseason. The largest crowd came in Mexico City in 1994 when the defending Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys faced the Houston Oilers. That preseason game drew 112,376 – 7,000 more than at any NFL game ever played anywhere in the pre-, regular- or post-season.
The NFL has marketed itself internationally by sending its defending Super Bowl champion to play games in five different countries: Australia, Canada, England, Japan and Mexico. The NFL has played the largest chunk of its 103 international games in England – 42 of them. The largest crowd ever to see a game there came this season when 86,215 turned out to watch the Denver Broncos defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium.
The Jaguars have been the most frequent visitor to England with nine appearances. The other three countries that have hosted the most games are Canada (25), Japan (14) and Mexico (11). The Bills have appeared the most in Canada, the 49ers the most in Japan (three games) and the Cowboys the most in Mexico (four).
The first regular-season game ever played on foreign soil came in 2005 between, again, the Cardinals and 49ers in Mexico City. Arizona won that game before a crowd of 103,467 – the fifth largest crowd ever to see two NFL teams play in the pre-, regular or post-season.
The first regular-season game played in England came in 2007 and in Canada in 2008. The first regular-season game ever played in Germany came last weekend when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers triumphed over the Seattle Seahawks in Munich. It was the NFL’s first visit to Germany since 1994 and the first-ever visit to Munich. The first five games in Germany were all played in Berlin.
Tom Brady has spent 23 seasons in the NFL but the game in Munich was only his fourth international appearance. He also played twice in England and once in Mexico, all with the Patriots. Hall of Famer Troy Aikman played seven international games in his 12 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys in four different countries — Canada, England, Japan and Mexico.