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Cities Most Likely to Gain or Lose an NFL Team

In the past two days, we compared the 32 NFL venues, by division – based on the size of their Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA), and then we compared the Green Bay geographical area to some others. Today’s topic is which cities are most likely to gain an NFL team, and which ones are susceptible to losing their teams.

After a substantial period of stability, in the past two years three NFL teams have either moved or announced they are moving to another locale: St. Louis, San Diego, and Oakland. While only one or two other NFL cities are in imminent danger of losing their teams, as populations shift – and especially where they are in decline – over the next decade or two, up to half a dozen current NFL cities will be fighting to keep their team. Green Bay will not be among these cities.

Most Likely to Lose an NFL Team

Here are some cities that would seem to be in jeopardy of losing their NFL teams in the future. I’ve also included some info on the three teams that recently lost or are about to lose their teams.

  • Buffalo – 50th biggest Metropolitan Statistical Area and losing population
  • New Orleans – 46th biggest MSA
  • Cleveland – 32nd biggest MSA, and lost 1 percent of its city’s population in just six years
  • St. Louis – 20th biggest MSA and not thriving, with an MSA growth rate of 0.7 percent
  • Oakland – though part of the San Francisco MSA, the city’s 2015 population of 415,000 makes it the 45th largest U.S. City, and only the eighth largest in California – and its population is declining
  • San Diego – 17th biggest MSA, and with a healthy MSA growth rate of 7.2 percent – it was the San Diego voters’ choice to not fund a new stadium that doomed this franchise


Though only 1.1 million people reside in the Buffalo MSA, the area has a loyal and rabid fan base, perhaps second only to Green Bay’s – though Pittsburgh also must be in this conversation.

Cleveland is stagnant, much like St. Louis was when it lost its team. Though the NFL MSA with the biggest recent population loss is Pittsburgh, that team also has a very loyal fan base as well as a long and esteemed history.

The NFC has a considerable advantage over the AFC when it comes to tenure. Pittsburgh is the oldest AFC team, having been around since 1933. In the NFC, the Arizona/Chicago Cardinals, Bears, Packers, Giants, and Lions all joined by 1930. The Packers are the oldest NFL team never to have moved and never to have changed their name.

Most Likely to Acquire an NFL Team

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Though Riverside has the country’s 13th largest MSA, it’s too close, only 59 miles, to two-team Los Angeles. San Diego is likely to someday snare another franchise, though St. Louis is not. Las Vegas, of course, has succeeded in abducting the Raiders, though the team is not expected to make the move until 2020, when the new stadium should be completed in Nevada.

With its fantastic growth rate, Austin should be high on the list of future NFL locales. If not Austin, then San Antonio, which is only 80 miles away.

Sacramento is 87 miles from San Francisco, while Orlando, which is growing more than twice as fast, is 85 miles from Tampa, 141 from Jacksonville, and 235 miles from Miami.

General Observations

All of the above does not take into account that the NFL might be interested in establishing teams in non-American cities, such as London, Munich, Mexico City, and Toronto. This does not appear to be an imminent plan, however.

While I’ve approached the topic from the perspective of populations, the attitudes of the NFL have a huge bearing in who stays and who leaves. By the NFL, I mean Roger Goodell and his group of bureaucrats, and of course the owners of the current teams.

A more significant factor as to what cities acquire, keep, or lose an NFL team is the greed of the NFL and its owners. When it comes to team owners keeping teams from small – and usually less lucrative – SMAs, the pattern is quite pronounced. Cases in point: St. Louis, the nation’s 20th biggest SMA, and San Diego, the 17th biggest MSA, both are moving or have moved to the second biggest MSA.

Final Thought: it utterly amazes me that the splendor and newness of one’s stadium seems to be more important to the NFL than almost any other factor. Fortunately, on this basis, too, Green Bay is secure, as it has one of the largest, newest (major additions and refurbishing), and most beautiful stadiums in the league.

Check back tomorrow for Part 4: Does Fan Base Size Make Success on the Field More Likely?

Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.



  1. jeremiah July 28, 2017

    just mesmerizing….thanks alot for the wonderful article!!!!!!!

  2. GBORNBRED July 29, 2017

    My man, Rob…I know they’ve legalized recreational marijuana in Washington State and all, but you’ve got to go easy on that stuff. I was initially drawn to this topic, but with the confusing way in which you lay out this post, I feel as though I’ve just taken a few hits myself!

    I’m not even sure where to start. For instance, it’s so obvious that Riverside-San Bernardino doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance of ever getting an NFL franchise with L.A. just outside their back door, that I’m not even sure why you even bothered to mention this area, which is essentially a distant suburb of L.A. Hell, who can even predict how long the Chargers and Rams will last in La La Land?

    And how is Jacksonville not on the list of cities most likely cities to lose an NFL team? This dumpster fire of a franchise has had more blackouts than Otis had during his entire run as the town drunk of Mayberry. Don’t forget that the Jaguars were one of the teams rumored at one time to be in the running to relocate to L.A. before they were beaten to the punch by the Rams and Chargers.

    With the exception of Toronto, I will say that I do hope you’re right when you say that the NFL does not appear to have an imminent plan of establishing a franchise in a non-American city such as London or Mexico City, because Roger Goodell sure seems hell bent on doing so. Given the geographic proximity to the States, Toronto would be the only city outside the USA that would make any practical sense. Toronto is also a great sports town, as long as the fans there can get used to the fact that you don’t have to punt on 3rd down in the NFL.