15 best expansion cities if the NFL adds new franchises

NFL London 2021
Tottenham's new stadium has been tabbed as a potential destination for a new NFL franchise. Photo from Evening Standard.

Even if the NFL looks perfectly balanced with 32 teams and eight divisions, that doesn’t mean there can’t be potential NFL expansion team ideas.

Word on the street is that NFL expansion rules are being discussed inside league offices with the possibility of the league expanding to as many as 40 teams being on the table.

In other words, there could be over half a dozen NFL expansion teams in the not-too-distant future.

The league undoubtedly has some potential NFL expansion cities in mind while there are surely some cities trying to position themselves to get a franchise. 

NFL expansion team ideas

Of course, while all of this is speculation, at least for now, it doesn’t mean that we can’t kick around some NFL expansion team ideas just for fun.

While the possibilities are almost endless with some cities you might not expect bound to get some consideration, we wanted to share our 15 favorite potential NFL expansion cities just in case the league decides to add eight new teams at some point.

St. Louis

It’s not like St. Louis hasn’t had an NFL franchise before, so it’s not a stretch that they would be high up on the list of potential expansion cities.

St. Louis is a wonderful Midwest city that already supports both a pro baseball and a pro hockey franchise. There is also the potential for a natural rivalry with Kansas City should an NFL franchise return to St. Louis. 


Oakland

It’s only been a couple of years since the Raiders left Oakland and the city would surely love a replacement franchise. The Oakland fans didn’t exactly what to see the Raiders leave, so they would surely embrace an expansion franchise.

Keep in mind that the 49ers don’t exactly play their games close to the two cities in the Bay Area. With a new downtown stadium, a new franchise in Oakland could thrive for a long time and likely be in a division with either the 49ers or the Raiders.

London

It’s no secret that the NFL would love to have a full-time franchise in London.

Obviously, travel would be a little more difficult, but the NFL could arrange for the London franchise to play mostly East Coast teams on the road to reduce travel as much as possible. In terms of a stadium, there are already multiple existing options, including Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which is only a couple of years old and was built with hosting NFL games in mind.

Austin

It still surprises many people that Austin doesn’t have a pro sports franchise out of Austin FC, an expansion team in MLS.

After all, it’s the capital of Texas and has no problem hosting tens of thousands of fans for football games on Saturdays. The city is far enough from both Dallas and Houston to create its own fanbase that’s separate from those cities. Austin is such a fun and vibrant city already that putting a football stadium downtown would be a great addition to an already amazing city.

Read more: Potential NBA expansion cities

Omaha

Granted, Omaha isn’t going to be at the top of any list for potential NFL expansion cities.

But there’s no doubt that they love football in that part of the country. The city is almost perfectly situated between Denver, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Kansas City, so there are fans from multiple states that would likely pledge their allegiance to an expansion team in Omaha.

Toronto

In addition to London, Toronto is another option for the NFL to cross international borders.

The caveat is that it’s almost too close to Buffalo and already has a team in the CFL. Since the NFL and CFL play on different size fields, sharing a stadium might be tough. That might force Toronto to build an NFL-specific stadium while also asking fans to take some of the focus off of the Argonauts. On the other hand, it’s an NFL franchise that all Canadians could get behind.

San Diego

Much like Oakland and St. Louis, it’s not that far-fetched to see the NFL return to San Diego.

Of course, building a new stadium would be a prerequisite for an expansion franchise. But if San Diego can get over that hurdle, it’d be easy to put a team there.

Memphis

Adding another NFL franchise in the south would be ideal for the NFL, making Memphis a great option for a new team.

The city already supports an NBA franchise and a semi-major college football team. There’s also no question that it loves football. A new franchise could play in the Liberty Bowl right away and perhaps look to build a new stadium down the line.

Orlando

The NFL has played the Pro Bowl in Orlando before, so a full-time franchise isn’t out of the question.

The stadium formerly known as the Citrus Bowl has more than enough capacity to host an NFL franchise, and the same is true of the population in the Orlando Metropolitan area, especially once the snowbirds come down in late fall. While four pro teams in the state of Florida sounds like a lot, the Sunshine State does love football.

Monterrey

Conventional wisdom says Mexico City is another potential destination for a team outside the US, but Monterrey is actually more reasonable if the NFL wants an expansion franchise in Mexico.

Monterrey is much closer to the American border by over 500 miles, so travel could be an issue in Mexico City. The high elevation of Mexico City also makes Monterrey a more reasonable location if the NFL is set on putting a team in Mexico.

Portland

Anybody who’s ever visited Portland knows that it’s a special city.

The sports fans there have supported the Trail Blazers for a long time and go crazy for the Timbers of MLS. On some level, it’d be nice to give the Seahawks a close geographic rival. But Portland would also make a good home for an NFL expansion franchise for other reasons.

Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City is bigger than most people realize and would have more than enough fans to support an NFL team.

Keep in mind, the state of Utah has multiple college football teams that have a strong following. A Salt Lake franchise would also attract fans from nearby states whose closest NFL franchise is either Denver or Las Vegas.

Vancouver

If the NFL wants to put a team in Canada, Vancouver should be given just as much consideration as Toronto.

It’s close to the border and is also a candidate to give Seattle a geographic rival. Of course, there is a CFL team already in Vancouver, which is one potential drawback.

San Antonio

San Antonio already has the Alamodome, so an NFL franchise would have a home stadium already in place. It’s also a city that has long supported an NBA team, so there’s no doubt that in football-loving Texas, San Antonio could also support an NFL franchise.

Odds are, the NFL wouldn’t want teams in both Austin and San Antonio, so it’ll be likely one of the other. The fact that San Antonio is a little further from both Houston and Dallas might make it a better candidate than the capital city of Austin.

Columbus

Not enough people recognize just how big Columbus is. The city is bigger than both Cleveland and Cincinnati, not to mention growing at a much faster rate.

It’s also located right in the middle of those two other Ohio cities that already have NFL teams, so the fanbase would be big enough. However, much like Austin and a few other cities, would an NFL franchise be able to compete in a city that already has a big-time college program that gets the attention of a pro team?

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About Bryan Zarpentine 272 Articles
Bryan Zarpentine is a freelance writer and editor with most of his work focusing on the world of sports. He is a 2008 graduate of Syracuse University and still resides in upstate New York.

17 Comments

  1. Portland, yes. No more Ohio or Texas teams. St. Louis and San Diego supported their teams. Birmingham needs a team. Stay out of Canada and Mexico and London. Too many US fans deserve a local team.

  2. Toronto is not a good city for a NFL team because most people in Canada don’t want a NFL team because it would take a attention away from the CFL and the City of Toronto dosent even care about the Arogs

  3. 1 team per division per conference stay out of Mexico and Canada, London too, it’s not the IFL it’s the NFL

  4. Can’t understand how you could leave out Birmingham yes Birmingham Alabama a great college football town that could definitely use a pro team. I’ve done the study on this and it would work. A great fan base that deserves an NFL team.

    • Alabama has never wanted an NFL team. They don’t even have pro teams. They just love their college ball.

  5. As a SW Ohioan, I’d like to respond to / clarify the point you made about Columbus being larger than Cincinnati and Cleveland. While the city population of Columbus is bigger than both Cincinnati and Cleveland, its metropolitan area population is the smallest of the three. The reason for this is that the city limits of Columbus are notably larger in total square miles than those of Cincinnati and Columbus, consequently encompassing a greater percentage of its metro area population, including most of its largest “suburbs” (which are not technically suburbs at all, given that they’re within the city limits). When you expand the inquiry to the combined statistical area populations of the three cities, Columbus is a distant third, with Cleveland about a third larger than Cincinnati.

    Furthermore, the Columbus media market is notably smaller than both Cincinnati’s and Cleveland’s, given that Cleveland’s essentially includes Akron, Youngstown, and Canton, and Cincinnati’s includes Northern Kentucky, Dayton, and Springfield. Columbus has literally no neighboring cities of comparable size.

    Also worth noting is that most football fans in Columbus have already adopted either the Bengals or the Browns, and as any Bengals fan from SW Ohio will tell you, these loyalties die hard. Even 50 years after the Bengals inaugural season, there are still droves of Browns fans who have no connection to, or roots in the Cleveland. As a Bengals fan, it frankly annoys the hell out of me.

    For these reasons, Columbus would have a much harder time supporting an NFL franchise than either Cleveland or Cincinnati. That’s not to say it couldn’t happen; it would just be harder.

    Lastly, if I had to venture a guess, I would estimate that at least 50% of OSU season ticket holders reside outside of the Columbus metropolitan area. Almost the entire state supports the Buckeyes, the only exceptions being the droves of Cincinnati and Notre Dame fans in SW Ohio and the smaller (but still sizable) number of Michigan fans in Northern Ohio. Thus, Buckeye loyalty is not a good indicator of whether Columbus could support an NFL franchise.

  6. San Antonio and Austin metros are adjacent and within a few minutes drive of each others suburbs. The area has over 5 million people so it’s becoming one market unofficially. San Antonio is the bigger metro and has more industry overall and Austin is mainly centered around The tech industry. Both cities can support a team. San Antonio is more of a sports city with a long history of hosting sporting events like Final Fours and NCAA bowl games. It would be a slap in the face if Austin lands a NFL team and not S.A. since S.A. is the bigger city and Texas’ most visited city hosting 40 million annual visitors. The best bet for this region would be for the NFL to put a team in between the cities of New Braunfels and San Marcos.

  7. Simply whom promote the idea of NFL team Salt Lak City,Portland and Toronto. Idea great indifference CFL wants to promote there aspiring teams in USA aware. CFL wants team in San Diego Portland yes due logistics fans travel to the games. Endorsements whom going build expected new facilities stadiums it’s gamble NFL needs to decide. XFL,IFL and USFL eager to challenge the NFL regarding popularity.

  8. I could add a few to this list pretty easily.

    Alabama (Birmingham as the “main” site with a home game in Tuscaloosa and Auburn once a year)
    Honolulu This would add a late night time slot to the mix.
    Rome – Imagine rebuilding the coliseum. The name “Gladiators” just screams out here.
    Istanbul- Europe’s Largest City and a tourist destination that is second to none… this almost is a no-brained.
    Nice/Monocco – These two cities are only a half hour apart. Monocco May only have 40,000… but 30% of those are millionaires. Build the stadium between these two financially well off cities… and roll in the dough.

  9. Mormons will never allow a Sunday game in Salt Lake City. Just like the jazz never play home games on a Sunday.

  10. Montreal and Vancouver would both be better choices than Toronto. One might even argue that Calgary or Edmonton could be, as well. Toronto has too much other competition for the entertainment dollar.

    Monterrey also has a relatively new stadium which is another reason it might get a team before Mexico City.

    For Europe, London obviously, but what about any of the other old NFL Euorpa cities? Berlin, Frankfurt, Barcelona, Amsterdam…even add a second UK city into the group. If they go to 40, they could add an entire Euro division.

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