Manchester City is considering embarking on a preseason tour of the United States this summer to establish itself as a global brand and to gain ground on Manchester United’s popularity overseas.
The report in The Guardian from last Tuesday says that the talks are only at a preliminary stage, but there have been talks about staging one of the preseason games (after the World Cup) in either New York or Philadelphia. Manchester City’s chief executive Garry Cook previously worked as a marketing executive at Nike headquarters in Portland, Oregon, so Cook is very familiar with the opportunities to ‘break’ the country.
Bizarrely, Guardian reporter Daniel Taylor refers to the previous tours by Chelsea and Manchester United to ‘break’ the U.S. market as failures, which is a ridiculous statement to make. Chelsea’s tour last summer was an incredible success as the team played in front of sold-out crowds across the United States. Manchester United has also done extremely well in ticket sales on previous tours. Yes, you could argue that Chelsea and Manchester United have not broken into the U.S. market, but by what measure do you define breaking a market? Soccer is increasing in popularity in this country, but overnight success can not be expected (unless the United States wins the World Cup).
Personally, I think Manchester City has an enormous opportunity to establish themselves as a brand to be reckoned with in the United States and can become increasingly more popular than they are now. There will be a large numbers of sports fans in the United States this summer who will become soccer fans and will be looking for teams to support. A tour of the States featuring a team of cosmopolitan players based in England would be an incredible success, and will be buoyed by the honeymoon period of interest after the World Cup is over.
The opportunity for Manchester City to become very popular in the United States is very attainable. Manchester United only seems to visit the States as a last resort (Asia and South Africa have been the first and second choices in recent years). Arsene Wenger is reluctant to allow his Arsenal team to tour the United States despite the fact that Arsenal supporters are clamoring for the team to visit for the first time since 1989. Chelsea is the most serious about conquering the United States, but even though they have played in front of sold-out stadiums over several years in the U.S., the club doesn’t seem to have been embraced by most Americans.
Here are 5 reasons why Manchester City can conquer America:
- Manchester City has the money to buy success. It always helps put butts on the seats when football clubs can buy some of the most exciting talent that’s available. And with the practically unlimited funds that Manchester City possesses due to its mega-rich owners, being able to purchase some top level athletes will undoubtedly create a lot of interest in Manchester City, both Stateside and around the world.
- Manchester City’s squad can do what Major League Soccer cannot. And that is fielding some of the top players in the world that represent the melting pot that is America. A Manchester City tour of the United States would appeal to ethnic groups represented by the following countries: Argentina (because of Carlos Tevez and Pablo Zabaleta), Paraguay (Roque Santa Cruz), Ireland (Shay Given and Stephen Ireland), Brazil (Sylvinho), Ivory Coast (Kolo Toure), France (Patrick Vieira), Bulgaria (Martin Petrov), Wales (Craig Bellamy), Italy (Roberto Mancini) and, of course England (Gareth Barry, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott and Wayne Bridge).
- Americans love underdogs who play attractive football. It’s a bit strange to call the richest soccer club in the world an underdog, but Manchester City is an underdog when you consider where they rank in the Premier League. In previous seasons, we’ve seen how teams such as Wigan Athletic, Fulham and Hull City have become popular in the States because the clubs have played attractive football and have been underdogs. And in the case of Fulham and Hull City have recruited Americans. Now if City could sign an American star such as Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey, the proposed summer tour to the States would be an even greater success.
- Manchester City has a history of playing friendlies in the States. In 1968, they visited the States on a tour and played against the Atlanta Chiefs and Oakland Clippers. Manchester City returned to the States after their regular season ended in 1980 to play in the Trans-Atlantic Cup where they played against the New York Cosmos and Vancouver Whitecaps. They returned the following summer, this time to play in Canada, against the Vancouver Whitecaps. In 1983, they traveled to Florida and played in the Sunshine International Series against the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
- Manchester City has been a part of the American soccer fabric since the 1970s. It’s been almost 30 years since the NASL shut its doors, but many City players from the 70s and 80s played in the NASL. The soccer fans who grew up on the NASL will remember Manchester City legends such as Brian Kidd, Rodney Marsh, Dennis Tueart, Dave Watson, Alan Ball, Colin Bell, Joe Corrigan, Kaz Deyna and many others. Soccer fans that followed the NASL in this country, who I believe are the foundation of soccer in this country, will have a deep appreciation for Manchester City.
Those five important ingredients can help Manchester City become more popular in the United States if the club is able to tour the country this summer, and is able to continue coming back and having the patience necessary to keep pushing to make City a household name in the USA.
Photo credit: Dullhunk.