The NFL announced on Tuesday that the 32 team owners have formally approved the expansion of the regular season to 17 games, which will begin in 2021.
Expanding the regular season was essentially a foregone conclusion, as it was part of the collective bargaining agreement that was approved by the players and owners in March 2020. Despite that, it's still a huge change. The NFL schedule hasn't expanded since 1978, when the league moved from 14 to 16 games.
"This is a monumental moment in NFL history," commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "The CBA with the players and the recently completed media agreements provide the foundation for us to enhance the quality of the NFL experience for our fans. And one of the benefits of each team playing 17 regular-season games is the ability for us to continue to grow our game around the world."
According to the NFL's statement, the new game "will feature teams from opposing conferences that finished in the same place within their division the previous season." The NFL decided that the AFC would be the home conference for 2021. The Game 17 matchups have already been decided, but no times or dates have been announced.
In addition to the expansion of the regular season, the NFL also shortened the preseason from four games to three, and affirmed their commitment to international games. Starting in 2022, all 32 teams will play an international game at least once every eight years. Initially, the NFL will focus on scheduling games in Canada, Europe, Mexico, South America and the United Kingdom.
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