Prepare yourself for an European soccer invasion this summer of epic proportions when some of the top teams in the world will descend on North America for lucrative preseason tours.
The mouthwatering list of teams scheduled to play matches in North America includes Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, AC Milan, Manchester City, Juventus, Valencia, Glasgow Celtic, Fiorentina, Benfica, Paris Saint-Germain, Glasgow Rangers, Sporting Lisbon, Bolton and other European teams. All of the Italian teams will play in late May and early June, while the other eight European teams will play in July.
The timing of the preseason tours after the World Cup ends is genius. The promoters will be hoping for a massive increase in interest of the sport thanks to the bounce it’ll receive after the World Cup ends. Plus it’ll be a perfect opportunity to expand the club’s coffers and popularity Stateside. And, at the same time, the proximity of North America to Europe is very convenient especially given the shortened window before the European seasons kick off again.
Some of the highlights of the preseason friendlies include Rangers against Celtic at Fenway Park, Manchester United against the MLS All-Star team (to be confirmed) and both Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur playing in the inaugural New York Football Challenge.
But the hoopla about the summer tours should be worrying for fans of Major League Soccer. After the World Cup ends and most American residents have been hopefully swept off their feet by ESPN’s coverage, the logical place for those fans to watch their soccer will be on ESPN for the 2010-11 seasons. And the league most likely to get the highest ratings boost is the Premier League especially when you consider that the league consists of some of the top players from around the world that sports fans will see throughout the World Cup tournament. Hopefully the US men’s national team will do well and advance through the tournament, which will be a big boost for MLS. However, if the US team stumbles and falls out of the tournament during an early stage, there is little for fans of MLS to pin their hopes on other than to watch top footballers who ply their trade in other leagues around the world.
At the same time, another worrying aspect for Major League Soccer is that very few people in the States are going to pay any attention to the league between June 25-July 11 when the World Cup is showing an average of 3 games per day on live television while Major League Soccer has 24 games scheduled during that timespan. Plus as we saw in the summer of 2010 when the World Football Challenge was the center of attention among the soccer community in the United States, very few people will be interested in the 21 MLS games playing between July 14-31 when the likes of Manchester United, Celtic, Spurs, Benfica, Valencia, Man City and other teams will be center stage (albeit with weaker teams than usual because players will be resting after the World Cup). Still, most of the games featuring those teams will sell out.