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Eintracht Frankfurt’s successful NFL stint spurs U.S. expansion plans

German professional sports club Eintracht Frankfurt is eyeing a U.S. expansion following the successful hosting of two NFL Germany Games at Deutsche Bank Park. The two games, hosted on November 5 and 12, sold out immediately and attracted over 100,000 visitors.

The first game of the 2023 season saw the faceoff between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins. A week later, the New England Patriots played against the Indianapolis Colts.

The recent two games were not the first NFL games that Germany hosted. On November 13, 2022, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played the Seattle Seahawks at Allianz Arena in Munich. The game also received similar success with a sell-out crowd and a high demand for tickets, which led to the announcement of the next two games the year after.

Club’s growth strategy

Hosting NFL games is a facet of the club’s growth strategy amid its upward trajectory in German soccer. The notable ascent of Die Adler includes winning the 2022 UEFA Europa League and defeating Barcelona in the semifinal.

The match drew global attention as around 30,000 Frankfurt fans turned Barcelona’s Nou Camp into a de facto home ground.

“The over 30,000 fans in Barcelona have also had an impact on the sports market in the United States,” Eintracht CEO Axel Hellmann said. “That helped us increase our presence in the United States.”

Last year, U.S. talent Paxten Aaronson arrived from the Philadelphia Union in a deal valued at around $4.5 million plus future incentives. His transfer has been a critical factor, according to Hellman. He emphasizes Aaronson’s potential role in the 2026 World Cup with the US men’s national team.

Frankfurt has been monitoring the U.S. player pool closely, and there is a possibility that Aaronson will not be the last to join Die Eintracht. Frankfurt sporting director Timmo Hardung said that “no other country in the world” offered better education for athletes than the US.

“It is, therefore, only logical that there will be even more top talents coming from the States,” Hardung said. “As a result, it is important to have a good network there.”

Carolina Panthers partnership

Keeping growth in mind, Eintracht Frankfurt has forged a partnership with the Carolina Panthers, owners of MLS club Charlotte FC. Samy Hamama, Eintracht’s Director of Internationalization, emphasized commonalities between Frankfurt and Charlotte.

“Frankfurt and Charlotte have many things in common,” Hamama said. “Both are important banking cities, have very good infrastructure, and are sports cities. The combination of football and soccer in Charlotte is a great fit.”

The primary drivers for U.S. expansion are on-field success and the inclusion of a prominent American player in the squad. Another crucial element is fostering relationships with major sports entities, such as the NFL or the Panthers.

“Top media companies like Apple, Amazon, Paramount, or Disney are from the United States and have significant influence on the German market,” Frankfurt’s media director Jan Martin Strasheim said.

“We want to be in direct communication with them. The cooperation with the Panthers gives us an insight into how the media market is developing and which trends to follow.”

According to Strasheim, the insights from the Panthers’ partnership are “something that will also impact the next round of Bundesliga television rights.” Hosting NFL games in Germany, Strasheim added, is a crucial element of their broader strategy.

The increased NFL presence in Frankfurt further contributes to Eintracht’s product expansion in the U.S. The city and club share a strong transatlantic exchange tradition dating back to the 1950s when Eintracht traveled to the States for friendly games.

Furthermore, Strasheim expressed his satisfaction that players such as Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes “felt that special Frankfurt atmosphere and had a good time.” He also mentioned that the establishment of new connections in recent days and highly valued the experience and professional collaboration.