In our previous blog, we came to the conclusion that the if you average the ratios over each decade, we end up with an average talent pool of 9.62 million people per team, which is almost exactly the current ratio. Therefore, the fact that we have 32 teams right now means that the league’s expansion has merely kept pace with long-term growth. They aren’t overexpanding and they aren’t underexpanding in terms of keeping the talent pool constant.
Using an average talent pool of 9.627 million people per team to keep our on-field talent consistent, we see that new teams should be added each decade as the American population grows, as shown below.
Population Per Team
To keep the talent level consistent, we should add 3 new teams by 2020, 4 more new teams by 2030, 3 more teams by 2040, and 4 more teams by 2050. This would add 14 new teams by 2050, giving us a 46-team league.
Now, where should those teams go?
No authoritative body develops state-level population projections for every state, so we cheated a little bit. We examined state populations in 2000 and 2010, and applied that growth rate to each subsequent decade. This allowed us to develop some very rough projections of the population of each state for the years 2020, 2030, 2040, and 2050, assuming that current growth rates persist over the next 40 years. (This is unlikely, but come on, this is a blog post, not a dissertation.)
We then lumped the states (and Washington DC and Puerto Rico) into 16 regions to better account for regional fan bases. This conglomeration was arbitrary, but is likely not overly controversial. For each of the sixteen regions, we then calculated the number of current teams and the number of teams that the region should have based on population, and added teams to the areas that were most underrepresented. This model therefore takes into account the number of teams already present, the current population, and population growth trends.
So what do we see as we look into our demographic crystal ball? Well, a proper expansion of the NFL should be as follows, and we’ll let the NFL determine how to account for having an odd number of teams.
The list below includes the region that would get the new team, and the likely city location if the new franchise is placed in the largest metro area.
Year 2020 – Add three teams, one each in:
California – Los Angeles (Does this surprise anybody?)
The Great Plains (OK, KS, NE, SD, ND) – Oklahoma City is the largest metro area in the region. This is probably a surprise, but this area has no team and a pretty good-sized population. (And for you geographically impaired readers, the Kansas City Chiefs are located in Missouri, not Kansas.)
Texas – San Antonio is up, as the Cowboys lose a little of their fan base.
Year 2030 – Add four teams, one each in:
Texas again – It should go to Fort Worth based on demographics, but given their proximity to Dallas, would that happen? If not, Austin would be the next city in line.
The desert SW (NV, UT, AZ, NM) – Las Vegas is the largest city without a team. And can you imagine going to a road game in Vegas? Talk about a home field advantage.
The Atlantic South (NC, SC, GA) – Raleigh is the largest city without a team. Move over, Panthers; there’s a new team in the Carolinas.
The deep South (AR, AL, MS, LA) – Birmingham is the largest city with a team, and come on, this is a town that would support an NFL team.
Year 2040 – Add three teams, one each in:
The Coastal Pacific (AK, HI, WA, OR) – Portland is the obvious site based on size.
California – Riverside is the largest metro area without a team at this point, so it’s time for the Inland Empire to join the NFL.
The Atlantic South (NC, SC, GA) – Yep, another one. This area is growing fast. Columbia, SC, barely beats out Greensboro, NC for this coveted franchise.
2050 – Add four more teams, one each in:
Texas – At this point Texas will have five teams. Fort Worth still deserves it if they want to part ways with the Cowboys, but if not, the team goes to El Paso.
The desert SW (NV, UT, AZ, NM) – It’s time for Salt Lake to get a clean-living team. Perhaps they could play in the same division as the Las Vegas franchise?
The Atlantic South (NC, SC, GA) – Would you believe a third team in North Carolina? If they can pull it off, Greensboro gets this team.
The Tropical South (FL, Puerto Rico) – San Juan, Puerto Rico, would be first in line. If you think the team must be in a state and not a territory, then it would go to Orlando, but maybe Puerto Rico will be a state by 2050 anyway.
Now, if you don’t think that Puerto Rico’s population should be included since it’s not technically a state, the last team would go NOT to the Tropical South, but up north in New England, where it would likely be awarded to Providence, Rhode Island. However, let’s assume that San Juan gets it.
So over the next 40 years, we would add 14 new teams:
Three in Texas: San Antonio, Austin, and either Forth Worth or El Paso
Three in the Carolinas: Raleigh, Columbia, and Greensboro
Two in California – Los Angeles and Riverside
Two in the Desert Southwest: Las Vegas and Salt Lake City
One in the Great Plains – Oklahoma City
One in the Deep South: Birmingham
One in the Coastal Pacific: Portland
One in the Tropical South: San Juan or perhaps Orlando
What do you think about this future? Would you change your favorite team? Or will you grouse about how the talent pool is being diluted? We think the smart money is to start putting an ownership team together in Oklahoma City or Birmingham.
Read the first blog in this two part blog series on the expansion of the NFL.