This past week the United States became the epicenter of the club football world with numerous friendlies involving large clubs from all over the world, as well as the unveiling of David Beckham as a member of the Los Angeles Galaxy. Now that the lights have faded and most MLS clubs are back to league action or off to Superliga, let’s evaluate what we’ve learned this past week.
Asia Trumps the US as a Market for European Clubs
Manchester United has clearly determined what Chelsea now should. Having a preseason tour in Asia is a much better way to sell tickets, develop new fans and sell merchandise than touring the United States. Chelsea may have fine tuned the chemistry of their squad on this tour, but they could have quite frankly done that in Europe. Chelsea was overshadowed by Club America in the first match (which happens anytime Club America plays in the US), played in front of a near empty stadium in its second match and got caught up in Beckham mania hype in its third match.
Everton’s first match of its US tour, a 2-0 loss to Real Salt Lake provided RSL’s second smallest weekend evening crowd since the franchise began MLS play three seasons ago. Chicago’s friendly with Celtic was played in front of a half empty Toyota Park and according to some reorts MLS gave away tickets to the All Star game Thursday Night (versus Celtic) to make Dick’s Sporting Goods Park appear full on TV.
The bottom line is simple. While a few years back crowds flocked to see European clubs play on American soil, the novelty of these matches has worn off and right now event promoters are better off booking big Mexican clubs who come with a built in fan base wherever they play in the USA than European clubs who may or may not sell tickets.
Chelsea Will Be Alright
Unlike last season when Chelsea’s poor performance against the MLS All Star showed the team suffered from post World Cup fatigue and a lack of cohesion, this trip showed Chelsea can find different ways to win matches against different types of quality opponents. John Terry despite a broken toe anchored a strong back line, and Didier Drogba worked to create space up front. While Jose Mourinho still has lots to learn in terms of using his flank players properly (including newly signed Florent Malouda) Chelsea’s possession game versus Los Angeles was impressive, and save some great defending by former Liverpool and Everton defender Abel Xavier, Chelsea could have picked its scoreline.