In late January, FOX Sports Mexico reported that the NFL has finalized the two clubs who would participate in the annual regular season contest in Mexico City this year: the New England Patriots would be taking on the Miami Dolphins in an AFC East showdown, with the latter of the two rivals serving as the home team. Shortly after the report broke, however, an NFL spokesperson refuted the story and announced that no decision had been made.
Fast forward to combine weekend, and an NFL press release that confirmed that the report of the Patriots and Dolphins playing south of the border was indeed an erroneous one: according to the league, the Arizona Cardinals will be the home team for the 2020 contest to be played at Estadio Azteca. Both New England and Miami have the Cardinals on their schedules next season, but they will each not play the NFC West team abroad.
While the Dolphins are already scheduled to host one international game in London and are therefore essentially disqualified from playing a second, the Patriots’ game against the Cardinals will take place in Foxborough. This leaves only eight realistic candidates to travel to Mexico, and the reigning AFC East champions are not among them. That being said, there is still a theoretical chance that New England will have to play outside the United States after all.
With Miami hosting a game in London, the Patriots could be selected as the opponent. However, there are two arguments speaking against this:
1.) The Patriots’ 2020 road slate already includes cross-country trips to Seattle and Los Angeles (twice) as well as games in Kansas City and Houston. Considering that teams have some say in the scheduling procedure, New England would likely protest having to play an international game as well.
2.) The Patriots are one of the most popular teams in all of football, and the Dolphins will likely prefer hosting them in Miami instead of Tottenham Hotspur Stadium 4,422 miles away. There are two reasons for this: revenue and home field advantage — the latter possibly not working in the Dolphins’ favor in London.
It therefore seems unlikely that New England will play internationally during the 2020 season, even though a final confirmation has yet to be made by the league. The Patriots’ last contest not on U.S. soil, by the way, took place in 2017 when the team blew out the then-Oakland Raiders 33-8 in Mexico. New England also won both of its previous games in London (2009, 2012) in blowout fashion by a combined score of 80-14.