“Why is the NFL in Mexico? A visitor to the capital city can sense right away why the league is so bullish on the country’s potential.”
The last time the NFL ventured into Mexico was in 2005, when the Arizona Cardinals beat the San Francisco 49ers in Estadio Azteca. Top-level American football is returning to the same venue in Mexico City on Monday night, when the Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders will face off in a contest that has been sold out since July.
Just don’t assume the 11-year gap is related to a lack of interest. In reality, Mexico is the top international hotbed for American football, with the largest NFL fan base of any country outside the United States. There are more fans of the league in Mexico City than in most actual NFL markets.
But the sport’s popularity in Mexico goes well beyond NFL fandom. From youth leagues that are overtaking soccer in popularity in some parts of the country to a new pro league, American football is a major player south of the border. With that in mind, here’s a closer look at where the sport stands on every level in Mexico and how fans there consume the game.