Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, and Munich are bidding to become the first German city to host American Football games.
The National Football League (NFL) has selected the trio to enter the final stages of the selection process for a regular-season game.
“After an initial period in which expressions of interest were received from multiple cities, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, and Munich have been invited to proceed to the “candidate phase’ of the process,” the NFL said in a statement.
“Those cities will now participate in deeper conversations about staging games in Germany.”
The league is hoping to hold a game in Germany next year, but plans could be delayed until 2023. A host city recommendation must be approved by NFL team owners.
Germany has a growing NFL fan base and one of the world’s largest economies, making it a logical target for a league with visions of worldwide growth.
But the country’s largest city Berlin was not among the eight that formally bid to host games after the NFL announced its intentions in June.
“I hope we’ll see a game in Germany in 2022, we’re on a course for that to happen,” said Brett Gosper, NFL Head of Europe and UK.
The final decision is expected to be announced at Super Bowl LVI in February.
Scheduling conflict with the FIFA World Cup
The NFL International Series may have to wait to debut in Germany until 2023, due in part to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar next November.
“There might be other obstacles that emerge during this process,” Gosper said.
“We’re cautious to say we’re definitely in 2022, but it certainly won’t be later than 2023,” he added.
Since 2007, the NFL has played 29 regular-season games in London, with the majority held at Wembley Stadium.
On Sunday, the league returned to the UK after a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a game at the custom-built Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
The London club has seven years remaining on a 10-year contract to host two NFL games annually.
Aside from London, ten other NFL international regular-season games have been played, including six in Toronto and four in Mexico City.
Gosper told the Associated Press that the NFL has also eyed potential games in France, Spain and “the Nordics”.