One of the NFL’s visits to Europe occurred Nov. 12 when
the Indianapolis Colts played the New England Patriots at
Deutsche Bank Park Stadium in Frankfurt, Germany.

One of the NFL’s visits to Europe occurred Nov. 12 when the Indianapolis Colts played the New England Patriots at Deutsche Bank Park Stadium in Frankfurt, Germany. (Doug Benc/AP)

In what was a first for the city of Frankfurt and the second time ever for Germany, two National Football League games were played there on back-to-back Sundays in early November. On Nov. 5, the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Miami Dolphins, and on Nov. 12, the Indianapolis Colts defeated the struggling New England Patriots in Weeks 9 and 10 of the NFL’s regular season. Alongside the three matchups played in London, a total of five NFL games were played outside the U.S. in 2023.

The hope is that the events increase interest amongst those who had been up to now unfamiliar with the sport. While Americans residing in Europe surely miss their home teams, they don’t have to give up on watching one of their favorite sports, either as played by U.S. teams abroad or their Continental counterparts. Today we take a look at what it’s like to follow American-style football from this side of the pond.

NFL International Games

NFL games being played outside the U.S. are nothing new. The first regular season NFL game to be held outside the United States took place in Mexico City in October 2005, and games have been played annually in London since 2007. Over the past few years, London has hosted up to four regular-season matchups, and three are on the city’s docket for 2024.

The outlook for the future of NFL games in Europe looks bright for now. In 2022, the NFL committed to playing regular season games in Germany over the next four years, meaning NFL games should be returning to the country in 2024 and 2025. Another European city whose name as a potential game host has been batted about by multiple sources is Madrid, Spain. Tickets for the November 2023 NFL games in Germany went on sale in June of that same year and sold out fast, so be quick on the mark if you’re dreaming of watching one of these games in 2024.

European League of Football

The European League of Football, or ELF, is a professional American football league created in November of 2020. Its first games took place in June of 2021. In the 2023 season, 17 teams throughout nine countries played in the league’s three conferences as follows:

Western Conference: Cologne Centurions; Frankfurt Galaxy; Hamburg Sea Devils and Rhein Fire (from Duisburg), all based in cities of the same name in Germany, along with the Paris Musketeers.

Central Conference: Barcelona Dragons (based in Réus, Spain); Helvetic Guards (Zurich, Switzerland); Milano Seamen (Milan, Italy); Raiders Tirol (Innsbruck, Austria); Munich Ravens and Stuttgart Surge, both based in Germany.

Eastern Conference: Fehérvár Enthroners (based in Fehérvár, Hungary); Prague Lions (Prague, Czech Republic) Vienna Vikings (Vienna, Austria) Wrocław Panthers (Wroclaw, Poland); Leipzig Kings and Berlin Thunder, both based in Germany.

The regular season that began on June 3 and ended on July 16 was brought to its conclusion by the championship game between Rhein Fire and Stuttgart Surge played on Sept. 24. Rhein Fire beat its opponents 53-34, making them the ELF Champions in 2023.

The 2024 season will herald just a couple minor changes. The total number of teams will remain constant at 17, as the Madrid Bravos join the league and the Leipzig Kings bow out, at least for now.

For American spectators, the prospect of seeing one of their own on the field is always a major draw. At present, the ELF allows every team to have up to four American import players on their team, two of whom are allowed on the field at the same time. The Americans have been making their presence known, with several American names on the league’s STETSON Honors list, including MVP nominees Markell Castle, wide receiver for the Munich Ravens, Chad Jeffries, quarterback for the Munich Ravens, and Jadrian Clark, quarterback for Rhein Fire.

While acquiring a season pass to one’s favorite team back home might involve years-long waiting lists and a significant outlay of cash, in Germany at least, it’s a pretty easy thing to do. At the time of this writing, season passes to all of Frankfurt Galaxy’s six home games in 2024 were available at prices starting at just 51.30 euros plus fees on the Ticketmaster website.

With such wondrous cities as Vienna, Innsbruck, Prague and Paris all hosting games, and tickets going at such affordable prices, friends and families in which one loves sports and the other loves travel just might find their perfect match in following the ELF games.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now