With the NFL expected to increase its regular-season schedule from 16 games to 17 as early as the 2021 season, the expanded schedule could compromise New Orleans’ ability to host Super Bowl LVIII in 2024 due to a potential conflict with Mardi Gras.
As a result, the league is contemplating various ways to deal with the potential issue. That includes postponing New Orleans hosting duties to a year that does not interfere with Mardi Gras.
If that happens, it could mean Las Vegas being considered as a host Super Bowl city sooner than expected.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in February that Las Vegas could be announced as a future Super Bowl city before the end of 2020. At the time the assumption was for either the 2025 or 2026 Super Bowls.
But that was before the league and its players ratified a collective bargaining agreement to pave the way for the NFL to add a 17th game as early as 2021.
That is significant for New Orleans. In a 16-game season, the Super Bowl date for 2024 is Feb. 4.
But by adding an extra game — and extending the season by one week — it would mean the Super Bowl would be played two days before the start of Mardi Gras on Feb. 11.
The league could eliminate one of the two in-season bye weeks of a 17-game schedule — although players would have a say in that — or trim the usual two-week break in between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl to one week.
All of those options seem to be under consideration.
“The New Orleans Host Committee, led by the New Orleans Saints and the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, has remained in close communication with league officials about the change to a 17-game regular season, as it relates to the city hosting Super Bowl LVIII in 2024,” Saints vice president of communications Greg Bensel said in a statement. “During the bid process in 2018, it was contemplated and discussed of the possibility of an extended schedule based on a new CBA. The Bid Committee, the New Orleans Saints and NFL worked together to build in contingencies if a potential conflict with Mardi Gras should affect the Super Bowl date. Mutually agreed upon terms during the bid process granted assurances that the NFL and Host Committee would explore all options for still hosting the game in 2024, or, agreeing to host the Super Bowl in a future year when the citywide calendar permits.”
If the option is to delay, that opens the door for Las Vegas to host its first Super Bowl sooner than imagined.