The NFL will return to Mexico City with a regular-season game next year.
Less than a week after the league moved the high-profile Chiefs-Rams matchup from Azteca Stadium to Los Angeles because of the poor playing condition at the Mexico venue, the NFL and Mexico’s president-elect confirmed the 2019 game. It will be the third match of a contract signed in 2016.
Commissioner Roger Goodell and Mexico’s President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador met before making the announcement Monday.
The date of the game and participating teams won’t be known until the NFL’s 2019 schedule is released in the spring.
The game between the Chiefs and Rams, both 9-1, has been one of the most anticipated this season, and would have been a showcase for Mexico with a likely huge television audience. But in a news release last Tuesday, the league said it determined that the recently re-sodded field at Mexico City’s historic stadium “does not meet NFL standards for playability and consistency, and will not meet those standards by next Monday.”
The league consulted with the players’ association and local officials before deciding it couldn’t risk the players’ health on a damaged field.
Mark Waller, the NFL’s executive vice president of international, traveled to Mexico City last week following the move of the game to Los Angeles.
Azteca officials changed the playing surface from natural grass to a hybrid in May, but the turf hasn’t been ideal for several months. Heavy use for soccer and concerts did serious damage to the grass.
Azteca hosted the first regular-season game ever held outside the U.S. in 2005 when Arizona beat San Francisco. The stadium has hosted several NFL exhibitions, and the Oakland Raiders, Houston Texans and New England Patriots all played regular-season games there over the past two years.
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