March 30 (UPI) -- The NFL is expanding its regular season to 17 games per team starting in the 2021 season, the league announced.
NFL owners voted in approval of the schedule change Tuesday at the league's annual meeting, which is taking place virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This is a monumental moment in NFL history," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "The CBA with the players and the recently completed media agreements provide the foundation for us to enhance the quality of the NFL experience for our fans.
"And one of the benefits of each team playing 17 regular-season games is the ability for us to continue to grow our game around the world."
Players agreed to the extra game as part of their 2020 collective bargaining agreement, which allowed the NFL to expand the regular season as soon as the 2021 campaign. The preseason will be shortened from four games to three to maintain compliance with the CBA, which limits the total number of preseason and regular-season games to 20.
For the additional game this season, each club will take part in an extra AFC vs. NFC matchup based on division standings from last season.
There will still be one bye week per team. The regular season will start Sept. 9 and run through Jan. 9, 2022. The Pro Bowl is set for Feb. 6, 2022, and Super Bowl LVI was pushed back one week from Feb. 6 to Feb. 13, 2022.
The NFL has played a 16-game season since 1978, but league owners have been pressing to expand the regular season for more than a decade. The league was close to imposing more games in 2014 -- without an agreement from players -- but ultimately tabled the idea.
The full 2021 schedule will be unveiled later this spring.
Also Tuesday, Goodell said the NFL is making plans to let stadiums operate at full capacity for the 2021 season.
Speaking to reporters after the first day of the owners' two-day virtual meeting, Goodell said: "All of us in the NFL want to see every one of our fans back. Football is simply not the same without fans, and we expect to have full stadiums in the upcoming season."
The NFL never established an attendance limit while staging games during the pandemic last season, deferring instead to individual teams in conjunction with state and local COVID-19 regulations. The league had a total of 1.2 million fans attend games in 2020.