American Bowl

American Bowl

The American Bowl was a series of National Football League pre-season exhibition games that were held at sites outside the United States between 1986 and 2005.


The league started the "American Bowl" series in 1986 primarily to promote American football in other countries. After successful games in London's Wembley Stadium, the series was expanded to Japan. Since 1990, games have also been played in Montreal and Berlin to promote the new WLAF (later NFL Europe) which started in 1991. The 1997 game was played in Dublin, Ireland. These games usually played at times of local convenience; in the case of games in Japan, it was common for games to start at 5:00 AM local time.

The largest crowd in NFL history was recorded at the "American Bowl" game at Mexico City August 15, 1994, when 112,376 people attended the game between the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Oilers.

The American Bowl was a fifth pre-season game, played the same weekend as the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, and did not take away a game from the participating teams' pre-season schedules.

At least one "American Bowl" game was played annually from 1986-2003. As many as four were played per year in the early 1990s. There were three games in 1998, two in 2000 and since then not more than one per year. There was no "American Bowl" game played in 2004, and in its last few years all "American Bowl" games were played in either Mexico or Japan.

The two teams that play in an American Bowl game are selected by the league. This game is always the fifth pre-season game for the teams involved instead of the normal four.

Not considered "American Bowl" games were several earlier pre-season contests played outside the United States. Between 1950 and 1983, there were 13 American football games involving NFL or AFL teams played on foreign soil. Six games between 1950-1961 pitted NFL teams against CFL teams with the NFL team winning all six games. One game was played between the AFL and the CFL (AFL's Buffalo Bills and CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, with Hamilton winning 38-21). All these games were held in Canada. There was also a game in 1960 that pitted the Chicago Bears against the New York Giants played in Canada.Fact|date=September 2008

The next five games were of the same format as the American Bowl (without the name) and featured four games between NFL teams and one game between an AFL team and an NFL team (Boston vs. Detroit, 8/25/69). The first two of these games were played in Montreal (1969), then in Tokyo (1976), Mexico City (1978), and London (1983) before the term "American Bowl" was coined.

There have been three international pre-season games during the "American Bowl" era that, for reasons unexplained, did not receive the American Bowl name: two 1988 matches in Montreal and Gothenburg, Sweden and a 1993 match in Toronto.

The pre-season game scheduled to take place in August 2009 between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks at Beijing National Stadium in Beijing, China has been named the "China Bowl" instead of the "American Bowl".

The last American Bowl was held in 2005. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell cited the league's new international strategy in the abandonment of international pre-season games as well as the closure of NFL Europe, instead focusing on playing regular season games in foreign countries.

Post-American Bowl

The first regular season NFL game played outside the United States was held on October 2 2005 at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City before an NFL regular-season record of 103,467 fans. The Arizona Cardinals defeated the San Francisco 49ers, 31-14. The New York Giants and Miami Dolphins played a regular season game at Wembley Stadium in London on October 28 2007 (with the Giants winning 13-10), the first ever NFL regular season game to be played outside of North America; similarly, the San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints will follow suit in October 2008. These games are not recorded as "American Bowls" (as they are played during the regular season and not the pre-season); instead, the name for this series is the International Series. In addition to these games, the Buffalo Bills will begin playing some pre-season and/or regular season games in Toronto, Ontario in the future, with the first Toronto game coming in 2008.

Game history


*cite book | title=2006 NFL Record and Fact Book | id=ISBN 1-933405-32-5 | pages=616
*cite web | url= | title=NFL History - 1991-2000 | | accessdate=2006-09-08
*cite web | url= | International | | accessdate=2006-09-09

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