IRVING, Texas – For the majority of 54 seasons, the Dallas Cowboys have enjoyed the moniker of being America’s Team.
Now, they’re going to officially take the show to England.
For the first time in franchise history, the Cowboys will play a regular-season game overseas. In 2014, Dallas will participate in one of the NFL’s three scheduled games in London for the 2014 International Series. The Cowboys will play the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are giving up their home game, to play America’s Team at Wembley Stadium.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell officially announced the move this week in London, revealing all three matchups. Along with the Cowboys and Jaguars, the Falcons will host the Lions and Oakland will host the Dolphins.
While the dates have the game will be announced at a later time, the Cowboys and Jaguars are expected to have their bye week following their matchup in London.
For years, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has said his team could play in the London game, but always as the road team. With AT&T Stadium drawing anywhere from 80,000 fans to as much as 105,000, the Cowboys would never agree to give up one of their eight home games.
However, the crowds in London have been rather respectable over the years. Since the NFL first started playing regular season games in London in 2007, the games are averaging 82,443 in seven games. From 2007-2012, the NFL has played just one game per season in London. This year, two games are scheduled and next year the league is bumping the number up to three.
“Our fans in the UK continue to demonstrate their passion for more football,” Goodell said. “Next year for the first time we will play three regular-season games in London. We have scheduled three attractive games with four teams playing in their first International Series game. The growing enthusiasm for the NFL internationally is exciting and we look forward to continuing to respond to this interest in our game.”
The International Series has increased NFL fan interest in the UK, with a current fan base of more than 12 million, including 2.5 million avid fans, a 30 percent increase in avid fans in the past two years.
Television ratings have shown substantial growth in the UK since 2006 – with Sunday viewership of NFL games almost doubling and the Super Bowl audience having increased 75 percent. The league also has developed new and stronger business partnerships.
Participation in amateur football in the UK has risen since the start of the International Series, growing by approximately 15 percent per year since 2007.
The Cowboys’ opponent next year might garner a few fans in London by next year’s game. Not only are the Jaguars playing the 49ers this week, but Jacksonville has agreed to play in the UK every year through the 2016 season.
The Cowboys played in the first American Bowl in 1986, when they met Chicago at Wembley Stadium. Dallas also played Detroit in London in the 1993 preseason.
The Cowboys have also played preseason games in Tokyo, Toronto, Mexico City and Monterrey.
But unlike the other meetings, next year’s game will actually count in the standings.