If the 2022 season turns out to be Tom Brady's farewell tour, it will officially be an international affair.
Brady's star power will headline the NFL’s first regular-season game in Germany, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks meet on Nov. 13 at Munich's Allianz Arena, the home of FC Bayern Munich.
Brady's return to the Bucs after a brief retirement is no small boost for the NFL, as it breaks new ground on its International Series. TB12 is a global sports celebrity, recognized by even the most casual fans, and his appearance in this game is sure to draw outsize attention beyond that which normally accompanies an NFL game played overseas, even one played by a serious Super Bowl contender like the Bucs. It is undoubtedly not a coincidence that Brady will become the first quarterback to start a game in three different countries -- his Patriots teams went 2-0 in London and 1-0 in Mexico City.
Entering this season, the NFL has played 40 International Series games. Germany was always the next logical location for the NFL's international aspirations, as the league that dominates the American sports scene seeks to expand its reach into markets flush with new and potentially enormous fan bases.
Thanks in part to the local popularity of the five German teams that played in NFL Europe between 1991 and 2007 -- and likely in greater part to the high concentration of United States military members stationed there, as well as the large expat community -- Germany is the NFL's fastest-growing international market, with 17 million fans and more than three million avid fans, according to the NFL. More than 2.5 million people watched Super Bowl LVI in Germany live, and Germany is the No. 1 market outside of North America for fantasy players, Madden purchasers and NFL Shop sales.
Germany will host four games over the next four seasons, with the November contest and an additional game in Munich, and two other tilts in Frankfurt.
The Bucs-Seahawks bout is one of five international games scheduled for 2022, with three October contests to be played in London and a November matchup in Mexico City, both longtime international game locations. When the NFL added a 17th regular-season game, it stipulated that each team is required to stage at least one international contest every eight years. The Green Bay Packers will become the 32nd team to play in London, when they face the New York Giants on Oct. 9 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
The NFL's push to build a global identity will likely get even more of a business boost in the coming years from an initiative that grants teams marketing and fan engagement rights in certain markets. In December, the Bucs, Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs were granted access to Germany for those rights as part of the NFL's International Home Marketing Areas program. In all, 18 teams have been awarded marketing rights across eight different countries, including Australia and China.
But just as in the United States, nothing will draw more fan interest than a competitive game.
The Seahawks are entering the post-Russell Wilson era in the ultra-competitive NFC West with Drew Lock as the potential QB1. This game will offer no out-of-division relief for the Seahawks. With Brady and a slew of his teammates back in the fold, the Bucs are considered one of the NFC's premier Super Bowl contenders. This showdown, coming just past the midpoint of the regular season, will present an endurance test for the Bucs, whose hopes of repeating as Super Bowl champions last season were undermined by a series of injuries. Typically, teams get their bye week after playing overseas, meaning the Bucs could take their break late in the season, the preferred time for organizations with postseason aspirations.