CHICAGO — Roger Goodell officially announced Tuesday that a second game will be played in London’s Wembley Stadium in 2013 and also revealed that San Francisco, South Florida and Houston are finalists to host Super Bowls L and LI during the league’s Fall Meeting in downtown Chicago.
Minnesota will be the “host” team and face off against the Steelers in London on September 29, 2013, four weeks before the already scheduled Jaguars-49ers clash in late October at Wembley Stadium. Both the Vikings and Steelers will be making their first appearances in the NFL’s International Series. The October game will be the 49ers' second trip back to London, after “hosting” Denver there in 2010, and the first of four “home” games for Jacksonville to be played over the next four seasons.
Vikings owner/president Mark Wilf and Steelers president Art Rooney joined Goodell in announcing their excitement for their international matchup.
“Steeler fans have distinguished themselves over the years for being great travelers,” Rooney said, “so we’re looking forward to seeing many Steeler fans over in London.”
“We appreciate our fan base, but we have fans throughout the world and I know we’re going to host a great game,” said Wilf, who called the game “a unique opportunity.”
The additional game will be played about a month before the usual late-October matchup in Wembley to provide spacing between the two games and work around the stadium’s other events, according to the commissioner. Goodell noted that the September date was also aligned with teams’ interests to get a long-distance game out of the way early rather than let it disrupt a team’s rhythm during a late-season push, but that the timing of other London games could be flexible in the future.
“This is a first for us, so we’re going to learn a lot from the experience and we’ll obviously base our decisions going forward off of this experience and what we learn,” he said.
He also said that the NFL considered placing the additional game elsewhere in Europe, but that the league “wanted to deliver two games to our fans in London and build that audience specifically.”
Goodell called the added game “a big part” of an attempt to potentially place a franchise in England.
“This is a way to really build that fan base right in London, which will be critical if you did have a franchise there.”
Later, Goodell announced that San Francisco, South Florida and Houston are the three finalists for the opportunity to host a Super Bowl at the end of the 2015 or 2016 seasons. During league meetings in May, owners will vote between San Francisco and South Florida as the site for Super Bowl L, before voting between Houston and the first vote’s runner-up to choose the host for Super Bowl LI.
Among the other things that Goodell addressed at the league’s meeting:
— Eric Edholm contributed to this report.