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Which cities should get an NFL expansion team?

The NFL is always looking to expand its reach to as many fans as possible. More teams joining the league isn’t a matter of if but when. We’ve compiled a list of the cities that deserve an NFL team the most. Your city just might be on it.

Before we begin, here are the criteria we used:

  1. What is the city’s population?

  2. Is the city already home to another Big 4 team (MLB, NBA, NHL) or a college football powerhouse? In other words, is it a sports town?

  3. Has this city been home to an NFL franchise before?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio has a population of 1.5 million people. It’s the largest city in America without an NFL franchise. Despite having a small media market, the San Antonio Spurs proved that Alamo City has what it takes to host a professional sports team.

Chances are, a San Antonio team in the NFL would have a bitter interstate rivalry with the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans. That sounds like you must-watch TV, especially if a playoff spot is on the line.

Texans love their football. We see it at every level: high school, college, and the pros. It’s about time professional football is played in San Antonio.

Fun fact: Did you know after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Saints relocated to San Antonio to play their regular season. They went 3-13 and moved back to New Orleans. The following season, new head coach Sean Payton and recently signed quarterback Drew Brees worked out pretty well for the Saints.

London

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London is already a member of the NFL International Series. The first NFL game ever played in London was in 2007 in front of a crowd at Wembley Stadium. Since then, 33 NFL games will be played in London, including the upcoming 2022 NFL season. The Jaguars played 9 games in London since 2013. They’ve been the home team for every game.

The options of franchise names are endless. You could go with the Redcoats, Royals, or the Monarchs, their name during their NFL Europe days.

toronto

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The largest city in Canada already has an NHL, MLB, and NBA team. Could an NFL team be in store? The city is accustomed to the gridiron. From 2008 to 2012, the Buffalo Bills played in Toronto for two preseason and six regular season games. The city is also home to the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.

An NFL expansion team in Toronto would make hometown rapper Drake very happy.

Mexico City

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Like London, Mexico City is part of the NFL International Series. They hosted their first NFL game in 2016. Four NFL games have been played in Mexico City.

Since Mexico City is the capital of Mexico, it makes sense this hypothetical sports franchise would be called the Capitols, Senators, or something along those lines.

oklahoma city

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Home of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, this city has proven it’s worthy of an NFL franchise. The Thunder’s rabid fanbase makes their presence known at every home game. But this is a football city in a football state. The Oklahoma Sooners are a college football powerhouse and have given the people of Oklahoma a lot to cheer for over the years. Those same fans would love an NFL team to root for. Maybe they inject some college fan spirit into an NFL stadium, giving them a unique home game experience.

st louis

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It’s the birthplace of Budweiser.

The Rams franchise played in St. Louis from 1995-2015 before relocating to better weather in LA. The St. Louis Rams won the Super Bowl in 1999 with The Greatest Show on Turf. The St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup in 2019. And last but not least, the St. Louis Cardinals have 11 World Series to their name. Make no mistake, the Gateway to the West deserves professional football again.

Seeing the Rams win the Super Bowl in 2021, not even a decade after relocating, must’ve hurt every St. Louis sports fan.

Sacrament

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The capital of California is already home to the Sacramento Kings of the NBA. It’s a city with tons of culture and history. Sacramento would be the fourth franchise in California if it were to receive an NFL expansion team. This would make it the state with the most NFL teams in the country.

Salt Lake City

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With a population of 200,000 and a solid college football fanbase, Salt Lake City gives other prospective NFL cities a run for their money. The Utah Jazz has called the capital of Utah home for decades. It’s the most populous city in a state with no football team. This one’s a no-brainer.

Like the Utah Jazz, an NFL expansion team in Salt Lake City could simply go by the state’s name instead of the city they play in. This will attract more fans from a wider area.

San Diego

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Their beloved Chargers left for LA in 2016. It was the first time San Diego was deprived of a professional football team since 1961! San Diego football was home to NFL greats Junior Seau, Philip Rivers, a young Drew Brees, and of course, Ladanian Tomlinson. Bringing an NFL team back to this city would mean a lot to the San Diego faithful.

sydney

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Sydney’s population is a whopping 5 million people! It’s one of the most populous cities in Australia. Home to the Sydney Opera House and several waterfront attractions, the only thing this city is missing might be a football team.

Something to mention about Sydney and Australia is home to some of the most vicious animals on Earth. Tasmanian devils, crocodiles, and Kangaroos that box like heavyweight champs… and that’s only naming a few. If they were awarded an NFL expansion team, there are several options to choose from for an intimidating animal name.

Tokyo

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Sticking with the international city narrative, Tokyo allows the NFL to go global. The greater Tokyo area’s population is 37 million. There is no shortage of potential fans in Tokyo. If given an NFL team, it would immediately be one of the biggest markets in the league from a sheer size standpoint.

Oakland

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Like St. Louis and San Diego, Oakland is one of those cities football fans would love to see have an NFL team again.

The former Raiders’ home, Oakland, is a viable option for a potential expansion team. There are guarantees to this market that some of the other cities mentioned on this list lack. NFL franchises have succeeded at Oakland before. The only downside to an NFL team in Oakland is how do you replicate The Black Hole? Raiders fans were known for their aggressive behavior and strange outfits during games. The nosebleed seats were reminiscent of a street fight instead of an NFL stadium. They left a tough act to follow.

Saint Joseph

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Another Bay Area city, San Jose, has never had an NFL team. But they are home to the San Jose Sharks of the NHL. It might not be as big of a sports town as nearby Oakland or San Francisco, but giving them an expansion team might be worth a shot. A Bay Area rivalry with San Francisco is intriguing.

Hartford

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Hartford is next on our list. The capital of Connecticut, they were once the home of the now defunct Hartford Whalers of the NHL. The biggest problem of an NFL team in Hartford would be their neighbors. The New England Patriots are next door. Would you rather watch a team with six Super Bowl victories or a new expansion team? Unless it’s free hot dog night at Hartford, you are going to the Patriots game. Maybe they could become the Patriots’ JV team? Or a punching bag. Who knows, they might be able to pull a few upsets. This sounds like a team fans would love to root for, ironically.

Montréal

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Montreal is the second most populated city in Canada. It’s second only to Toronto. The Montreal Canadiens and the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes play in the city. The Canadiens have 24 Stanley Cups, and the Alouettes have seven Gray Cups. An NFL team in Montreal would have to carry on the winning tradition.

vancouver

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Vancouver is a two-hour drive from Seattle. Rest assured, these two teams would create a formidable rivalry with one another. They already have an NHL and CFL team, so there is a solid sports fan base here.

Ottawa

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The last Canadian team on our list is Ottawa. It’s a vibrant sports town with dedicated fans. The Ottawa Senators and Reblacks each play in the city already. The capital of Canada has the makings of an NFL city.

Four Canadian teams made the list. They’re Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Ottawa. If these teams made the cut for an expansion franchise, it makes sense to put them in a new division filled with Canadian teams. This way, the AFC and NFC don’t have to undergo realignment within the divisions. Letting the Canadians have their own division makes sense.

Frankfurt

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Frankfurt has already hosted an NFL-affiliated team before. The Frankfurt Galaxy of the NFL Europe League won the championship four times before the league ended in 2007. With a solid population of 750,000, Frankfurt is an intriguing destination for an NFL expansion team. A logical rivalry for this team would be the London expansion team.

The flight time to get to Frankfurt would give them a significant home-field advantage over visiting North American teams. For example, a flight from LA to Frankfurt is approximately 11 hours. It’s also across different time zones. Factor in the 12th man, and playing in Frankfurt might be a nightmare.

Portland

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They’re already home to the Portland Trail Blazers of the NBA, who have the seventh best winning percentage in NBA history at .533%, according to Stat Muse. Portland is used to rooting for a winner. Why not give them a football team?

The Seattle Seahawks versus Portland’s NFL team would be the battle of the Pacific Northwest.

It would be interesting to see the goofy outfits hipsters would come up with for Portland’s home games on Sunday.

Honolulu

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Hear me out here. They have the potential to be the Flint Tropics of the NFL. Playing in Honolulu would be a vacation for NFL players. The franchise could attract aging veterans who want a chance to prolong their careers in the warm weather while contributing to a winning culture. It’s a similar model to what NBA executive Pat Riley has built with the Miami Heat of the NBA.

Make no mistake, the beautiful weather would be a major selling point to the fans as well. NFL fans are known to travel long distances to watch their beloved teams play. Watching your favorite team in person while on vacation sounds like a dream. There might be more away fans than home fans at their games.

David J. Hunt is a freelance writer based out of Philadelphia. He ran cross country at Penn State, became a volunteer firefighter during COVID-19, and is a self-taught journalist. He’s a diehard Philly sports fan. When he isn’t watching sports, he enjoys working out, fishing, and traveling. You can find more of his writing from him at The Chestnut Hill Local and The Temple News.

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