When superstar Tom Brady stepped off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers plane with a camouflage bag and black hoodie, the Seattle Seahawks had already celebrated their first Munich football party.

Quarterback Geno Smith’s team danced to loud music on Thursday’s feel-good program on the training lawn on Säbener Straße. “I’m very excited and I want to enjoy every moment here,” Smith said as he appeared in front of the press wearing a Bayern Munich scarf. At the same time, thousands of Seahawks and Bucs fans in the city center got in the mood for the first NFL game in Germany.

American football conquers Munich

Munich has football fever. Breweries have turned into NFL pubs, the Odeonsplatz resembles a huge fan shop and on the evenings before the cracker in the Allianz Arena, one football party after the other takes place. When the best football league in the world plays a game in Germany for the first time on Sunday (3:30 p.m. / ProSieben and DAZN), around 67,000 people will be there – according to the NFL, three million tickets could have been sold. At the same time, thousands of fans are expected at the public viewing in the Audi Dome.

The response from the NFL community also impressed Germany’s NFL boss Alexander Steinforth – even if it was to be expected after the boom of recent years. “That’s a great sign for us and confirmation that we’ve made the step to Germany. We’re noticing the great interest everywhere.” So far, only London and Mexico have hosted the NFL abroad.

Football in Germany is no longer a niche product. A survey by AGF Videoforschung, the association of German TV and streaming providers, confirms the trend: around one in three 14-49 year olds came into contact with football on TV at least once in 2021. Only football shows a higher value in the age group with around 85 percent.

NFL with clear Germany plans

The game in Munich should only be the start of a very big German NFL vision. It is already clear that the Bavarian state capital will share three more main round games with Frankfurt in the next three years. “But of course we want to play more games here in the future. Our number one goal is fan growth. We want to get more fans excited about the sport and give more people access to this sport,” said Steinforth.

How can that succeed? Among other things, through more “local heroes” in the NFL. “The more German protagonists there are, the more fans can build an emotional bond,” said Steinforth, “there is the NFL Academy in London. More German players have to go in there – and into the International Player Pathway Program (IPPP)”. With the IPPP, the NFL wants to make it easier for foreign players to step into the league – Stuttgart’s Jakob Johnson made the next step in his career.

In addition, NFL Germany is currently investing “a lot of time and money” in the less contact version of American football: flag football. “For us, this is the entry point into the sport, which is primarily aimed at young people,” said Steinforth.

“NFL-Franchises” in Europa?

NFL professional Johnson raves about current developments in his home country. For the 27-year-old from the Las Vegas Raiders, the game in Munich is a victory for the German football community. “This is the sign that the NFL takes German football fans seriously,” said the fullback. Kasim Edebali believes that the sport in Munich will be taken to a new level. “It will multiply the football hype in Germany for generations,” predicted the former professional.

Some NFL romantics even dream of an entire division made up only of European teams. League boss Roger Goodell himself had recently fueled the rumors again and again. “We’re trying to see if there are multiple locations in Europe that could have an NFL franchise,” Goodell said in October, adding, “I think there’s no question London could support just one franchise.”

A challenge of a European division would be the many long overseas journeys for the players and teams. The question is probably less one of logistics than one of competition. There are currently no concrete considerations in this regard, said Steinforth. “But in the US, you definitely see what’s going on in Germany very clearly.” And this much is certain: there is a lot going on.