ESPN History

#TBT: ESPN televised NFL’s first international series game 10 years ago

Performers prior to the start of the regular season NFL game between the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, Mexico on Oct. 2, 2005. (Photo courtesy Marco Ugargte/AP)
Performers prior to the start of the regular season NFL game between the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, Mexico on Oct. 2, 2005.
(Photo courtesy Marco Ugargte/AP)

With ESPN and the National Football League currently celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month – and with the first of three 2015 NFL games being played in London this weekend (Jets versus Dolphins) – today’s #TBT flashes back 10 years to the very first NFL International Series regular season game played outside the United States.

On Oct. 2, 2005, the San Francisco 49ers played the Arizona Cardinals at famed Azteca Stadium in Mexico City in front of 103,467 fans – at the time, the largest crowd in NFL regular season history (now the second-largest behind 105,121 at Cowboys Stadium on Sept. 20, 2009). ESPN and ESPN Deportes televised the game as part of the company’s previous Sunday Night Football package.

“I will never forget that day; growing up in Mexico City, watching NFL games with my father, Enrique, every week, [made it even more special],” said reporter John Sutcliffe, who was part of the telecast team that night for ESPN Deportes and continues to cover Monday Night Football each week while based in Mexico City. “It was a proud moment for all Mexicans who love the NFL.

John Sutcliffe. (Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images)
John Sutcliffe (Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images)

“When the 49ers and Cardinals players came out to warm up, they received lots of cheers, but that was also because the Mexican under-17 soccer team was winning the World Cup in Peru, and fans where watching the game on the large screens,” Sutcliffe said.

Azteca Stadium still holds the NFL’s all-time single-game attendance record – 112,376 for a Dallas Cowboys-Houston Oilers preseason game in 1994 – which remains a great source of pride for NFL fans in Mexico.

Sutcliffe said: “The Steelers and Cowboys are the two big teams in the heart of Mexican fans, and there’s no question the NFL is the No. 2 sport after soccer. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a regular season game back in Mexico City as early as next year.”

Mike Skarka contributed to this post.

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