In what is always one of the most-watched single sporting events of the year, the Carolina Panthers face the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. What was once a strictly US event is now a global spectacle.
More than 100 million people are expected watch the broadcast of the Super Bowl in the United States alone this Sunday night, but as the National Football League (NFL) continues to build on its global brand, millions of others will be tuning in overseas - with Germany no exception.
Even though it will be after midnight in central Europe before the opening kick-off at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, more than a million people in Germany are expected to stay up late into the night to watch the action. The Super Bowl has been shown live on television in Germany for years, and this time it will be broadcast on private television station Sat.1. Last year's broadcast drew a German audience of more than a million viewers from start to finish, peaking at 1.6 million in the first quarter. The sister channel ProSiebenMaxx will broadcast a pre-game show beginning just over an hour before the start of the game.
The NFL's popularity in Germany has been helped by live broadcasts of select games on basic German cable all season, with German former player-and-coach-turned commentator Patrick Esume explaining the finer points of the game. For the great majority of Germans, American football is difficult to understand.
While most will likely watch the game at home or on their computers, some will attend Super Bowl parties, with many sports bars planning to stay open late into the night.
Top D against top O
As for the game itself, the contest features the NFL's best defense, in the form of the Broncos, going up against the league's most prolific offense, led by Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. This is Newton's first appearance in the Super Bowl and the first for the Panthers since thy lost to the New England Patriots in 2004.
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is poised to make history the moment he steps on the field, as at 39, he will become the oldest starting quarterback in the history of the Super Bowl - breaking a record set by the Broncos' current general manager, John Elway.
Not only that, but it could wind up being Manning's very last game. Asked about his post-Super Bowl plans earlier this week, Manning was non-committal.
"I haven't made my mind up, and I don't see myself knowing about that until after the season," he said.
While Manning, who is looking to add a second Super Bowl ring to the one he earned with the Indianapolis Colts in 2007, may be the sentimental favorite for many, Las Vegas bookmakers like the Panthers to win their first Lombardi Trophy.
pfd/glb (AP, AFP, dpa, SID, Reuters)