The NFL has announced a major change to the 2020 season ahead of the anticipated schedule release. The International Series, which includes games in London and Mexico, has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The league expects to play overseas in 2021, but the previously scheduled matchups have been moved back to the United States.
The decision was revealed in a statement from NFL Executive Vice President Christopher Halpin. He confirmed that the International Series would not take place in 2020 and said that this was only a one-year alteration. The Jacksonville Jaguars were set to host two games at Wembley Stadium while the Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins were each scheduled to host games at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Arizona Cardinals were the host team for a game at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.
"After considerable analysis, we believe the decision to play all our games domestically this season is the right one for our players, our clubs, and all our fans in the US, Mexico and UK," Halpin said. "We greatly appreciate the support of our governmental and stadium partners in Mexico and the United Kingdom, who all agree with this decision, and we look forward to returning for games in both countries in the 2021 season. We also thank our incredible fans in those territories for their passionate support of the NFL. We will continue to serve them through our outstanding media partners and by being active supporters of both grassroots football and COVID-19 relief efforts in Mexico and the UK."
With the cancellation of the International Series, there are concerns about the NFL season and whether or not it will take place. However, the league still plans on playing all of the games and will release the 17-week schedule in the coming days. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy confirmed to ESPN that the plan is to hold the season-opener on Sept. 10 and play every game leading up to Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7. The league even has hopes of getting fans in the stadiums at some point.
"We plan to start on time. If we have to make adjustments, we will be prepared to do so based on the latest guidance from our medical experts and public health officials and current and future government regulations," McCarthy said. "We made adjustments and conducted safely and efficiently key offseason activities such as free agency, the virtual off-season program and the 2020 NFL Draft."
According to ESPN, the league has been examining contingency plans for the upcoming season if the health and safety concerns continue into September. Delaying the season until October and playing the entire schedule without bye weeks is one option, as is holding games in empty stadiums. However, the league does not plan on moving all of the games to a centralized location. This is a plan that has been discussed by the NBA and MLB, but the league won't be following suit.