NFL will play game in Mex­ico City in 2019

The Standard Journal - - NATIONAL SPORTS -

NEW YORK — The NFL will re­turn to Mex­ico City with a reg­u­lar-sea­son game next year.

Less than a week af­ter the league moved the high-pro­file Chiefs-Rams matchup from Azteca Sta­dium to Los An­ge­les be­cause of the poor play­ing con­di­tion at the Mex­ico venue, the NFL and Mex­ico’s pres­i­dent-elect con­firmed the 2019 game. It will be the third match of a con­tract signed in 2016.

Com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell and Mex­ico’s Pres­i­dent-elect An­dres Manuel Lopez Obrador met be­fore mak­ing the an­nounce­ment on Nov. 19.

The date of the game and par­tic­i­pat­ing teams won’t be known un­til the NFL’s 2019 sched­ule is re­leased in the spring.

The game be­tween the Chiefs and Rams, both 9-1, has been one of the most an­tic­i­pated this sea­son, and would have been a show­case for Mex­ico with a likely huge tele­vi­sion au­di­ence. But in a news re­lease last Tues­day, the league said it de­ter­mined that the re­cently re-sod­ded field at Mex­ico City’s his­toric sta­dium “does not meet NFL stan­dards for playa­bil­ity and con­sis­tency, and will not meet those stan­dards by next (this past) Mon­day.”

The league con­sulted with the play­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion and lo­cal of­fi­cials be­fore de­cid­ing it couldn’t risk the play­ers’ health on a dam­aged field.

Mark Waller, the NFL’s ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of in­ter­na­tional, trav­eled to Mex­ico City last week fol­low­ing the move of the game to Los An­ge­les.

Azteca of­fi­cials changed the play­ing sur­face from nat­u­ral grass to a hy­brid in May, but the turf hasn’t been ideal for sev­eral months. Heavy use for soc­cer and con­certs did se­ri­ous dam­age to the grass.

Azteca hosted the first reg­u­lar-sea­son game ever held out­side the U.S. in 2005 when Ari­zona beat San Fran­cisco. The sta­dium has hosted sev­eral NFL ex­hi­bi­tions, and the Oak­land Raiders, Hous­ton Tex­ans and New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots all played reg­u­lar-sea­son games there over the past two years.

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