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NFL pushes back plans to play in China from 2018 to 2019

The Rams’ delayed stadium opening made it easier to make the call.

Beijing Is Covered With Smog Photo by Guang Niu/Getty Images

The NFL’s plans to add another level to its international play will have to wait another year. The Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers were reportedly set to play a regular season game in China in 2018, but now it’s looking like it will be in 2019.

NFL Executive VP Mark Waller said the league may kick off its 100th anniversary — during the 2019 season — in China. “It may make better sense to look at that game as an opportunity to celebrate our hundred years, in the event we can pull it off and as a way to look forward to the future,” Waller told Sports Business Daily.

The delayed opening of the Rams’ new stadium from 2019 to 2020 was key in the NFL’s decision to push back. The Rams are set to be the home team for a game in China, and have to give up a home game for an international one in 2019.

According to Sports Business Daily, the numerous moving parts surrounding the NFL’s multiple international games also contributed in the decision to wait another year. The NFL has five international games this upcoming season, with four in London and one in Mexico City.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell first spoke about the possibility of a game in China during the owners meeting last March.

“The size and the influence of China in the global marketplace is obviously something that you can’t ignore,” Goodell said. “You can’t ignore that as a sport, or a business, or as a nation. We know we have lots of fans over there, and more importantly, potential fans over there.”

Goodell added that multiple teams were interested in playing globally, but China was a bigger interest.

Tom Brady was one of those who expressed interest in China. “My dream is to play a game here in China someday,” Brady said during an Under Armour promotional tour.

“To bring that here and to bring the discipline and to bring the incredible strategy involved, it’s just a great event and hopefully a lot of the Chinese people would enjoy it,” Brady said.

At the very least, that wait has been extended another year.