<
>

49ers, Cardinals hope to expand fan base

MEXICO CITY -- The NFL emphasized again Friday that if its
first regular-season game abroad this year is successful, it could
be the start of a broader international push.

The league "is going to look at all of the markets that have
indicated an interest in doing this around the world: several in
Europe, Canada, Asia," Roger Goodell, the league's executive vice
president, said.

Goodell spoke at a news conference to talk about the
Oct. 2 game between the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers,
the first regular-season contest outside the United States.

Goodell re-emphasized what commissioner Paul Tagliabue said when
he announced the project: that if the game here between the Cardinals and 49ers is a success, the league might
"look to play an international game, maybe on an annual basis, and
rotate that around to some of the markets that have an interest globally."

But the league wants to know first how the game goes in North
America's largest metropolis, one that has hosted five NFL
preseason games. The first of those set a league attendance record
of 112,376 in 1994 when the Dallas Cowboys met the Houston Oilers.

Attendance this year can't top 105,000 because of modifications
since then to Azteca Stadium.

The stadium's 7,200-foot altitude has helped make Azteca
difficult for visiting soccer teams, including the U.S. national
team in games against Mexico. In this case, San Francisco safety
Tony Parrish said, "The altitude is going to affect both teams the
same."

Goodell said the league will have to cope with teams' home-game
stadium commitments. "We do the scheduling and most of the leases
recognize that," he said, but acknowledged, "those will be issues
we'll have to address as we look to how we expand this series if we
find that this is the right way to do it."

Mexico was chosen for the first game partly because it has the
largest NFL fan base outside of the United States and regularly
televised games have created loyal fans of the Cowboys, 49ers and
Pittsburgh Steelers, among others.

The country also has a national collegiate league and the NFL
sponsors a national touch football series for youths.

The Cardinals are the home team, in part because they stand to
lose little from their home gate. The team, which is moving into a
modern new stadium last year, often is lucky to fill half the seats
at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., its home field.