As winter settles in and the MLS offseason is in full swing, it is not too soon to plan those warm weather summer tours where international teams play MLS squads. The advantages to both sides are obvious – MLS teams can show they can compete with their international colleagues while the international team can entertain their American fans. And both sides usually benefit financially from the games. Last season, the following English teams made the trip across the pond – Bolton, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, and (gulp) Portsmouth.
And one club has already begun to plan a 2011 summer tour – EPL Talk reported Manchester United has already begun planning a visit. Rumor has it that one of the matches will be played at Wrigley Field in Chicago, which not-so-coincidentally is the headquarters city of Man U sponsor Aon. No other details have been announced, but on the heels of a successful visit last year you can expect the team to be in high demand.
Here are five other English clubs I’d like to see visit the U.S. this summer, with a recommended location and opponent. Below is a poll where you can vote on which clubs you would like to see this summer. Over the coming weeks I will post polls for other leagues and nations, so stay tuned.
Arsenal – Rumor has it that Arsene Wenger does not want to tour the U.S. and finds more value in the club’s training in Austria and occasionally Asia. No team however would benefit more from a visit to the U.S. than the Gunners. They have a huge U.S. fanbase, many of whom have never seen the club in person, and would be guaranteed to sell out their matches. In addition, their majority owner is an American, so a U.S. tour makes perfect sense. Dream match – Arsenal v. Colorado Rapids (same majority owners) at Invesco Field, Denver.
Chelsea – The defending EPL champions visited the U.S. in 2009 and played in the World Football Challenge against, among others, AC Milan. This is another club with a huge American following that skipped last year, making their reappearance good for ticket sales. If they win the league this season, it would make their matches even more marketable. Dream match – MLS All Stars v. Chelsea. Because Man U did it, so should Chelsea.
Everton – Really there is one reason, possibly two, why an Everton tour would make sense: Tim Howard and, if he makes an England move, Landon Donovan. American soccer fans who want to follow an EPL team naturally have to consider the club because of the American national team keeper and Donovan’s time with the club. Everton should take advantage of having Howard and schedule a tour while America he’s still on the club. Dream match – Everton v. New York Red Bulls at New Meadowlands, NJ. A homecoming for Tim Howard.
Liverpool – Despite having a down season, the club is still one of the most popular in the world. And now is the perfect time for them to come over as they were recently purchased by John Henry, owner of the Boston Red Sox, and he could show off his nice new purchase to his American supporters. In fact, this dream match-up is a no-brainer: Liverpool v. Revolution in Fenway Park.
Tottenham Hotspur – The club’s recent resurgence has attracted a lot of attention from casual soccer fans and attracted some American fans looking to attach themselves to an EPL team. The emergence of Gareth Bale gives them a marketable young star, and the other big names on the team make them a compelling matchup for any American club. Dream match – Tottenham v. Seattle Sounders in Seattle.