A report surfaced earlier this year that suggested the NFL would be the first American sports league to play a regular-season game in China. But there are still too many logistical issues to make playing the game a realistic possibility right now.
The Sports Business Journal originally reported the Los Angeles Rams were set to play their 2018 home opener in Beijing against the San Francisco 49ers. However, the NFL still needs to find a way around the effect a trip like that would have on both teams.
“The main focus of the work now is as much about how does a team come back from China and then play and be competitive after a trip like that,” NFL executive vice president of international Mark Waller told Sporting News’ Alex Marvez. “It’s less of the focus on the game in China itself.”
There’s no doubt a trip of that magnitude would take a toll on players. The flight from California to Beijing is approximately 12 hours. That being said, a flight from California to London isn’t much better at approximately 10 hours.
Waller told Marvez the NFL would prefer to play the game before bye weeks begin in Week 4 and said the league has even considered playing the game before the traditional Thursday night season opener. He added playing the game in Week 1 could throw off preseason scheduling though.
The league has tried and failed to bring a game to China before. A 2007 preseason contest between New England and Seattle was ultimately postponed to 2009, then canceled altogether.