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7 Things We Learned About The World Football Challenge


Chelsea’s squad returns to London today after an incredibly successful 10-day tour of the United States. While they were in the States, the club won the World Football Challenge, played in front of an average attendance of 68,687, demonstrated a renewed sense of enthusiasm and playing ability under new manager Carlo Ancelotti, and managed to wade off Manchester City’s advances toward captain John Terry.

All in all, you can say it was a tremendous success. Not just for Chelsea, but for the entire World Football Challenge tournament. With that said, here are seven discoveries we learned from the World Football Challenge:

  1. The United States is ready to host the 2018 World Cup. Everything in this tournament was perfect from the world-class stadiums, the marketing of the event, the television coverage, the stadiums packed with fans and the level of football played on the pitch. Even a massive thunderstorm couldn’t stop the festivities in the game yesterday between Chelsea and Club America in Arlington.
  2. Soccer is finally a mainstream sport in this country. Unless you haven’t noticed, soccer has finally become a mainstream sport in the United States. It started with the massive success of Euro 2008 last summer, which peaked with the crescendo of the Confederations Cup final just a few weeks ago in South Africa. Then there was the successful Gold Cup tournament both on and off the field. Add to that the sold-out stadiums, incredible TV coverage and the fact that the general public are now finally talking about the sport we’ve loved for years.
  3. America is the new Asia. We keep seeing Premier League team after Premier League team heading to Asia each summer, while most clubs ignore the United States. But this summer, Chelsea had much larger attendances, by far, than Man United’s tour of Asia as well as Liverpool’s tour of Asia. Those Asian tours aren’t all about tickets sold though. It’s more about merchandise sold and planting the seeds for future growth. However, it’s time that the Premier League starts paying attention to the United States. I believe the next Barclays Trophy should be held in the United States, not Asia.
  4. Major League Soccer has a fight on its hands. MLS is not only losing the TV rights battle in the United States to European leagues, but it’s also losing the attendance battle. It’s obvious that the majority of soccer fans in the United States are dissatisfied with the playing levels of Major League Soccer in comparison to the European leagues. Sure, there’s the novelty factor. And then there’s the chance to see world-class players in-person. But ignoring those two factors, there’s still no doubt that Major League Soccer has an uphill battle if it wants to convince soccer fans why they should bother watching their league on television or, better yet, attend its games in person.
  5. Serie A is going to have a long season. Judging by the poor performances from both Inter Milan and AC Milan, it’s going to be another long season for Italian fans as well as being another fruitless season in Champions League. In the past, English teams feared Italian teams, but not any more. Both Inter Milan and AC Milan looked old, tired, unimaginative and incapable of surmounting a serious challenge in their games against Chelsea and Club America.
  6. The British media don’t treat America seriously. If you read the football articles in the British press last week, you would have read a few about how successful the Premier League teams are in Asia. However, not one of the papers wrote about the success of Chelsea in the United States. Sure, there were the articles about Ancelotti, Terry and others, but none specifically about the massive numbers of football supporters who attended the game. It’s almost as if it didn’t happen.
  7. Football friendlies don’t have to be friendlies. I was pleasantly surprised at how competitive many of the players were during the World Football Challenge. Other than Chelsea’s last game where they fielded a C team against Club America, the Blues treated these tournament very seriously and not only fielded strong teams, but you could see that the players were fighting for their places as well as the honor of winning. The majority of this tournament felt and looked like a major soccer tournament, not a few meaningless friendlies.

Based on the success of the 2009 World Football Challenge, the chances of the World Football Challenge returning to the United States in 2011 (after a break for the World Cup next summer) must be quite considerable. If so, what teams would you like to see compete in the tournament? Click the comments link below to share your thoughts.

There’s no doubt that Chelsea must have made an incredible amount of money from this summer’s World Football Challenge not only in appearance fees but also in merchandise sales. Let’s hope the rest of the Premier League clubs pay attention and realize how well organized the tours in America are. And how safe they are — compare that to the unfortunate incident in Indonesia where Manchester United were 36 hours away from arriving at their hotel when a bomb detonated in Jakarta.

The last thing I’ll add about the World Football Challenge is that the tournament definitely was a lot more appealing due to the clubs playing from different countries. If it had been only Premier League teams, it wouldn’t have been as exciting or as popular. Reason being is that the organizers of the World Football Challenge played to the strengths of the United States which is its different ethnicities. The World Football Challenge attracted Mexicans and Italians as well as Americans and ex-pats. Let’s hope that the World Football Challenge returns in 2011 and becomes even more popular and widespread throughout the United States.

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  1. efrain

    July 29, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    Anyone notice Will Farrell supporting Chelsea in Los Angeles? BUT, on his blue Chelsea shirt the logo was ‘Fly Emirates’! Was that a hint that he really prefers Arsenal??

    Arsenal, Barca, any South American team, and an MLS team would be nice in the next World Cup Challenge.

    • The Gaffer

      July 29, 2009 at 1:21 pm


      Will Farrell’s shirt was an old Chelsea jersey from when they used to be sponsored by Emirates.

      The Gaffer

      • efrain

        July 29, 2009 at 1:28 pm


        Thanks for clarifying that…. I’ve only been a fan for about 3 years now…. guess it shows 🙂


  2. CA_backpacker

    July 28, 2009 at 10:52 am

    I love this tourney, it helps me stay sane in the dry months until the EPL season starts up again. Agree with an earlier poster, leave the Italians home. Inter was completely disappointing and lethargic against Chelsea at the Rose Bowl.

    If Liverpool came to this tourney, I’d travel around the US to catch them at multiple venues.

  3. Ian

    July 28, 2009 at 7:30 am

    The United States is ready to host the 2018 World Cup. – Agreed. It has been for a while, the stadiums and infrastructure is there obviously, and the population is warming to the sport.

    Soccer is finally a mainstream sport in this country. – That may still have something to do with the NFL season months away, but it is growing, no doubt.

    America is the new Asia – In terms of shirt sales, the commercial side of the game sure, but most fans (in England, I mean) aren’t interested in the money side of football in this way. A lot of fans don’t like the idea of pre-season holidays to Asia or the US. They are a way of making money and ‘spreading the brand’. Its business speak, and that alienates a lot of fans who see football as a sport and an offshoot of the community and local identity.

    Major League Soccer has a fight on its hands – Agreed. But it will always compete with European leagues for tv audiences, that hasn’t and won’t change. In the same way that basketall or American football are growing in popularity in the UK, but fans will always choose to watch the US tv feed rather than their local team.

    Serie A is going to have a long season – I wouldn’t read too much into a few friendlies at the beginning of pre season. Inter will surely be favourites again, and once again I forsee English and Spanish dominance in the champions league.

    The British media don’t treat America seriously. – Its not America they don’t treat seriously, its the concept of pre-season kickabouts that are sold as a ‘World football challenge’. The games exist to make money, and to serve marketing purposes. I’m not against that per se, business is business, but let’s be honest and up front about it, and not pretend that these games have meaning. Football dominates English media all year round – its’s only right that we look at cricket during the 2 months off. Also, the Asian games didn’t recieve much coverage either.

    Football friendlies don’t have to be friendlies – They often are though. From what I saw there was a competitive edge at times in the Chelsea Milan game, for example, but it’s clear that the game is more about the money and ‘the brand’ rather than the sport as such. No manager is naive enough to think they can learn much about their teams from friendly games played out to friendly audiences like that.

  4. edgaraurelius

    July 28, 2009 at 6:56 am

    “Soccer is finally a mainstream sport in this country.”

    This was said in 1994 when the U.S. hosted the World Cup and has been said several times since when minor events happen (including the U.S.’s run in the Confederations Cup recently). Unfortunately, this will be said numerous times afterward and it still won’t change the fact that no, its still not truly mainstream. Everyone in the United States knows who Tiger is, who Tom Brady is, who Kobe Bryant is, who Alex Rodriguez is and who Roger Federer is but not everyone in the United States knows who Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi are.

    • RaiderRich2001

      July 28, 2009 at 7:35 am

      Is it mainstream? Right now, probably not. But it’s got a bigger audience than you think.

      • edgaraurelius

        July 29, 2009 at 5:03 am

        And just how the hell do you know what I think? You don’t. Simple as that. I wasn’t saying soccer had a small audience in the United States, I was saying it wasn’t mainstream.

  5. eplnfl

    July 28, 2009 at 6:28 am

    Interesting stuff and a lot comes back to how MLS can get better. It’s great to here from so many people around the country who have been motivated by the recent tour of Chelsea, etc., to get MLS to be a better league. A lot of the ideas put forward revolve on making it a European like league, but here is a radical idea with a built in US fan base and TV audience:


    Yes, I am serious, go back if you will to the NFL and AFL merger to of the 60’s and see how it could work. MLS team after MLS team would fill there house for a Mexican League club playing a game that means something. I intend to expound on my idea on Kartik’s site but think about the impact.

    • RaiderRich2001

      July 28, 2009 at 6:40 am

      That would be awesome! And it would never be allowed by Sepp Blatter or FIFA in a million years.

    • AtlantaPompey

      July 28, 2009 at 12:05 pm

      I like the idea, but it would force the MLS clubs to spend money they don’t currently have. Solve that problem, and I think it’s a good one.

  6. Joel

    July 28, 2009 at 1:49 am

    I think it is wrong to assume that MLS needs to directly copy the EPL. In truth it needs to be a hybrid. While I don’t advocate the silly rules of the early years (hockey style shootouts, and clocks that count down with buzzers) I don’t think a carbon copy of Europe is what we need. While the quality needs to improve I think it is unfair to ask the crowds to sing like England and the table to work like England. Football needs to develop in the US naturally and that means it will have its own distinct flavor to it. Just like all of America that flavor will be a wonderful mix of all the footballing cultures represented here.
    Also on the schedule it is a bit unrealistic. I just do not see a NYRB game in January or a Revs game in December. Have you ever seen the NE Patriots play in this weather!?!? We would need to eliminate all Midwest and Northeast teams. Russia, Norway, and Sweden don’t play a FIFA schedule for the same reason.

    • RaiderRich2001

      July 28, 2009 at 6:28 am

      I don’t think the MLS on-field rules are going to differ from the IFAB Laws of the Game like the NASL did throughout it’s history. If they do add that goal line official, it’s because everyone else is doing it. They got special permission from FIFA for the countdown clock and the shootouts for the first few years, but the experiment didn’t bring in the fans they were hoping for so they ditched it.

      Some of the off field stuff, like the league structure, calendar, playoffs, TV announcers, etc, are more eurosnobbery and the mad rantings of a certain radio host who shall not be named than a legitimate problem with MLS.

      Some people say the salary cap is an issue, but they forget that we didn’t have a top-flight league for 12 years in the U.S. because the previous one overspent more than their revenues were bringing in and collapsed.

      The development system is an issue that is holding this league back, that’s the biggest problem.

  7. Shazback

    July 27, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    Without wanting to be annoying, point 3 is quite inaccurate. Manchester United sold 85,000 tickets for their game against Indonesia XI that was cancelled because of the Marriot-Ritz-Carlton bombings. Had that game gone as scheduled, Man U would have sold more tickets than Chelsea’s pre-season tour of the USA. That Man U sold 30,000 tickets in 24 hours is nothing short of amazing… Even moreso when it is against the same team and in the same stadium as 24 hours before! Without wanting to dissapoint US soccer fans, I don’t think that Chelsea vs Seattle Sounders would have raised another 30,000 if it was scheduled again 24 hours later.

    Another thing to consider is that Man U didn’t play against other touring teams. Inter-Chelsea, Milan-Chelsea, America-Chelsea… They’re far from Malasya XI-Man U, FC Seoul-Man U and Hangzou-Man U, and yet if it hadn’t been for the Jakarta bombings, Man U would have had more spectators.

    Lastly, the PL Asia trophy doesn’t showcase four top clubs, or even two. One “top” club, one local club and two mid-table Premier League teams. It wouldn’t be a lot like the World Football Challenge, but more like the Chicago Trophy (Sevilla, Wisla Krakow, Reggina, Toluca)… And unsurprisingly, the Chicago Trophy wasn’t much of a success compared to the World Football Challenge or the PL Asia trophy.

    • The Gaffer

      July 28, 2009 at 6:19 am


      United’s last game of their Asia tour against Hangzhou was watched by less than 30,000 spectators, which completely ruined their average attendance this summer.

      The clubs in this summer’s Barclays Asia Trophy are Hull City, West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur and Beijing. I would consider West Ham and Spurs top clubs. But I get your point.

      The Gaffer

  8. Thomas

    July 27, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    If it shows anything, it’s that there is a demand for high level soccer in this country.

    The going rate for the friendly I saw 2 years ago (Chelsea, Club America) was $50. That’s steep for a game that means nothing, and is comparable to cheap NFL Regular season game ticket.

    MLS obviously is not delivering what the masses want. But look at new markets like Seattle, and soon Portland. You’re garnering huge interest. Sure Qwest Field doesn’t sell 70k tickets for a Sounders game. But you are drawing 25,000-30,000 fans. That’s progress.

    As much as people are critisizing MLS, I think they are right to build slowly. Overexpansion will kill them.

    These Euro Tours raise the profile of the sport, and it gets more people interested. Some of the fans will tune into MLS (which has gotten much better), allowing the league to slowly build.

    And I agree, MLS, and US Soccer need to increase access to the sport for more minority children. Pay to play is definitely hampering participation, especially when you consider mainstream sports (football, basketball, baseball), provide most of the equipment for free at the High School level.

    This definitely was a huge step for US soccer.

    Check back after the World Cup, it will be even bigger. If we host in 2018, the lid will be ready to blow.

  9. Jleau

    July 27, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    I thought the tourney was great and I think more attention should go to the way that the Seattle fans came out for the Chelsea friendly. The atmosphere was great and the crowd was mostly Americans cheering for the Sounders! Who saw that coming this time last year?

    I think Euro soccer doing well in the US will only help the MLS. The league needs soccer fans period. I started watching the EPL and I love it. I started to watch the MLS last year and I’m hooked. The quality is low and they need to develop american talent but it’s here and you can see it live. When the atmosphere is good it’s a lot of fun. The Sea v Chicago last saturday was great entertainment and it was 0-0.

    IMO the appeal of Soccer is very much like College Football. A great game in the SEC doesn’t diminish attendance or interest in the Pac-10. In fact it’s the fact that the leagues are seperate that make the inter-league games so interesting.

    The size and scope of World Football is what makes it so fun. Amazingly there seems to be room for all of the leagues.

  10. Reece Edwards

    July 27, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    It was a fantastic tournament and I really enjoyed watching the teams. I would love to see Manchester united, real Madrid, bayern Munich and boca juniors next time.

  11. edgar

    July 27, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    I was at the Chelsea vs Club America game last night and even though it wasn’t to max capacity(57,000+), it was close to fifty-fifty Chelsea/America fans and a few neutrals as I. I thought the atmosphere was great. Chelsea fans were singing, but all they sang was Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea…over and over again. Boring. I still enjoyed the game, even though i am not a Chelsea fan, and i would wish for all Prem teams in the future, that would be great! Any Prem team would be great! I would have gone to watch Burnley play had they come closer to Dallas. I didn’t even know they were in the States. MLS has to do something. MLS is losing the battle to establish themselves more as a real league. I personally support MLS and go to as many FC Dallas games as i can. If we want it to grow, we have to support the league. I don’t like the fact that they won’t merge with the USL divisions to create promotion/relegation. (I believe that they will not merge bc in five years time ALL the MLS teams would be relegated to the lower divisions). I hate that they still have not adapted to FIFA calendar. Also MLS should be one table and NO playoffs (typical American style). One other thing that i would like to point out is that you can’t have players jumping from team to team in the MLS. If MLS really wants to create derbys and rivalries, you can’t have players that played for… lets say DC United, transferred to LA. It just doesn’t make sense. Oh, i am Manchester United supporter so being biast, i’d love to see my Red Devils here in America sometime soon.

    • Kartik Krishnaiyer

      July 27, 2009 at 4:33 pm

      Edgar- keep an eye on USL in the next year or two. They are more aware of the calender issues than some may think and are thinking of realigning their calender to at least somewhat match South America. MLS on the other hand is staying April-November

    • DaveMo

      July 27, 2009 at 6:10 pm

      Lots of good suggestions – almost all impossible in practice. The league is a single entity, and the “owners” have all invested in growing it – none will ever agree to be relegated. Full stop.

      They won’t follow the European calendar until/unless all the teams in the league have soccer-only stadiums. How many still share a football stadium? …and the league is still too fragile to try to compete with NFL in NFL season.

      • RaiderRich2001

        July 27, 2009 at 6:55 pm

        Also by going April-to-November, you’re competing head to head with Baseball, which is the weakest of the big 3 sports. Soccer is a summer sport here. Get used to it.

        The league structure and playoffs have never been an issue with MLS. We don’t need our pundits whining about how there’s no playoffs in soccer like they do for college football every year. And there’s nothing worse than watching the last week of the Premier League when the title was wrapped up a week earlier and the other Champions League spots have been decided. (I’m not saying this to be anti-Euro. Nobody watches the last NASCAR Chase for the Cup race at Homestead either because the title usually gets decided one or two weeks prior)

        Also, a relegation battle just isn’t going to pique the interest of U.S. sports fans like it does in Europe. Losing teams just don’t get the press coverage here and if they dropped out of the league, nobody would care. If they decided to institute relegation in baseball, nobody would notice if the Pirates dropped down because no one knows who’s on their roster to begin with.

      • RaiderRich2001

        July 28, 2009 at 4:48 am

        Furthermore, Why should the table have to work like England when Mexico’s Primera Division has *always* had multiple group tables and playoffs for both Apertura *and* Clausura. By the way, the Primera Division have better ratings in the U.S. than the Premier League, La Liga, MLS and the Bundesliga combined. Don’t tell me not having a single table is an MLS issue.

  12. Carrick

    July 27, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Win the world cup…not just have an ok finish in the quarters, don’t bomb out in the first round. Win the WC and people it will start a spark that will grow. The first spark was 94 when the cup was here in the USA. Win it, make the media take up and put it on “prime time” with hype like the miracle on ice kinda thing and well… The chants of U-S-A will be hanging from the rafters. Also the USA needs some sort of face man. All you ever hear really here is Pele and things like Beckham. Who is the American with that much face time? None one really.

    Americans like a winner and we need to have and show that USA can walk out onto the pitch and win, win, win and carry the trophy off in some major FIFA tourney for the American people to take it up and pass the other big sports here.

    That is all.

  13. Jose Mourinho

    July 27, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    Shut up Ethan.

    Shut up photographer.

    • CA_backpacker

      July 28, 2009 at 10:50 am


  14. Ethan Armstrong

    July 27, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    I learned that Jose Mourinho walks FAST when you take the lens cap off.

  15. Ivan

    July 27, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    MLS is going healthy and steady. The average attendance is about 14-15K, on par w/ NBA and NHL. The league has a loyal following which is only bound to increase just like the quality of the product on the field will increase!
    People following the EPL, Bundesliga, Seria A in no way threaten the existence of MLS. The league is only 14-15 years young and in time(20 years or so) will be on par w/ the best of leagues. It takes time and pateince, and I completely disagree w/ the MLS bashing in the article.
    Other than that, it has been a phenomenal summer for football in the US!!!

    • RaiderRich

      July 27, 2009 at 1:07 pm

      True, but that’s not to say that everything with MLS is roses. There’s still some things they could do better.

      But it’s not *as* bad as The Gaffer and a certain radio personality we’re not supposed to talk about on this site are making it out to be.

      • The Gaffer

        July 27, 2009 at 1:22 pm


        I fully support MLS and hope they do well. And I’m not one of the pundits who continually picks on the league. In fact, take a look at my other site, Major League Soccer Talk at

        The Gaffer

        • Kartik Krishnaiyer

          July 27, 2009 at 4:39 pm

          Be careful Gaffer…..some who like MLS say I’m the most anti-MLS person of all even though all my criticisms I make with an eye towards improving American footy. (I’ll admit my vision of MLS is as a development league that makes our players the best in the world, not as a mini La Liga or Premier League. I like the French/Dutch/Argentine model much better.)

  16. Mike

    July 27, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    I’d like to see an MLS team in the tournament, anybody– doesn’t matter, whoever has the lightest schedule (not in SuperLiga, or CONCACAF Champions, or US-Open).

    On a side note though, I think the points system is a little hokey.

  17. Stuart

    July 27, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    JF is right, it is easier to watch World’s Strongest Man. Although I have live in England and love watching soccer, not having HD on FSC or EPL broadcasting on an HD channel really takes away my interest. If you do not own an HD tv, don’t, because once you do, you won’t watch tv on a non HD tv. Hopefully FSC starts broadcasting in HD in February as they said they would, in time for the UEFA Champions league knockout stages

  18. villafandan

    July 27, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    great article, gaffer. it’s certainly been am impressive summer on this side of the pond and it’s a pity if it’s not getting the recognition it deserves back home.

    i couldn’t make it to baltimore or philly for the gold cup, so the only game i got to was crystal palace vs harrisburg, which i thoroughly enjoyed. knowing that palace have a sister club over here, it led me to thinking how great it would be for more english teams to follow their lead.

    i would certainly be very happy if randy lerner created an AVFC USA, even it were in cleveland!! i was wondering if this was an area you had any thoughts on?

  19. JF

    July 27, 2009 at 11:48 am

    I would’ve loved to go to WFC had they played one in the NYC/NJ metro area, but they didn’t, because the CONCACAF Gold Cup was being played instead. So I went to that one and had a great time. Yes there was that whole 5-0 beatdown thing but the 90% pro-Mexico crowd was having a great time so it’s all in good fun.

    “These people aren’t mad for it the other 364 days of a year.”

    I think the evidence is that people will watch the top levels of competition in this country. TV rights for foreign leagues are a complete mess here and Fox Soccer Channel isn’t even in HD so its tough to watch the smudges move around the smudgy pitch. Right now its easier to watch World’s Strongest Man and lumberjack competitions than EPL – by a wide margin. And it looks better too. But surely these issues will be resolved soon.

  20. john james

    July 27, 2009 at 11:48 am

    While i agree with most of what was said i disagree with the notion that american fans are dissatisfied by mls soccer and jump at the oppurtunity to watch european soccer, especially in person. American fans are not dissatisfired with american soccer, but obviously when two top clubs in the world are in the states americans will obviously want to watch that. Watch any mls game and see the support save for a red bulls game. that stadium is huge

  21. Tisha

    July 27, 2009 at 10:48 am

    I saw Chelsea vs Seattle Sounders at the beginning of Chelsea’s US tour. Over 65,000 fans chanted, sang, stood and cheered for ….. the Seattle Sounders. Sure there were Chelsea fans but the majority were Sounders fans. It was a great atmosphere and I came away with a new appreciation for Chelsea and ELP talent. Holy Smokes! I am a Fulham fan because of Americans that play there but now I am a Chelsea fan as well.
    Before each match in Seattle, the fans take part in March to the Match. Joe Roth, Drew Carey, Adrianne Hannaur plus Peter Kenyon and his Chelsea friends all took part in the march. Mingling with the people. How cool is that!

  22. DaveMo

    July 27, 2009 at 10:25 am

    I’d like to see the same formula – a Mexican team to make sure the stadia are full and have legit atmosphere, one of the top four English teams, and two clubs that normally have massive derbies in their domestic league.

    So…… Chivas de Gualalajara, Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid (hey, as long as we’re wishing – why not wish for the best).

  23. brand_new

    July 27, 2009 at 10:19 am

    I think this tournament is really cool. It is rare that someone from the United States would get to watch world class soccer like this. I attended thet Chelsea v. Club America and I thought the play along with the atmosphere was phenominal. However, I would have liked to see what Chelsea would have done had they played Drogba, Lampard, Anelka etc. I really hopes this tournament comes back in 2011. I like the format now, but I think since it recieved such support they should try to grow it to an 8 team tournament with 2 groups a semifinal, and final. Along with teams from the EPL, I would love to see some teams from La Liga and Bundesliga like Real Madrid, Barca, Werder Breymen, or Bayern Munich. Another thing they might reconsider if this tournament is held again is relocating the Atlanta game as it recieved less suport. I am confident that most players would love to get a chance to play a game at one of the best stadiums in the world (Cowboy’s Stadium).

    • AtlantaPompey

      July 27, 2009 at 12:49 pm

      Atlanta had more fans (50,000) than both Stanford (30,000) and Foxboro (40,000). While it was 60% Club America fans, about 20% AC Milan fans, and the rest neutrals like myself, Atlanta has a strong soccer community, especially in it’s very large Hispanic community. Put a Mexican team here and we can sell a lot of tickets. The Mexico-Venezuela friendly a few weeks ago also drew 50,000.

      • Kartik Krishnaiyer

        July 27, 2009 at 4:31 pm

        Yup, and the FMF is already looking at putting more games in Atlanta and my play some interliga there this year with the Copa Lib births on the line. All the while fans of MLS keep saying “the south doesn’t support soccer.” They are living in a different world some of these MLS backers.

      • RaiderRich2001

        July 28, 2009 at 4:59 am

        Part of the problem is that they’ve had two clubs in the SE (Tampa and Miami) that have folded and the MLS bigwigs are loath to try again.

        And no offense to our friend Pompey, but the fact that Atlanta hasn’t sold out playoff games in the other major sports doesn’t help the city’s case for a franchise in the future.

        • AtlantaPompey

          July 28, 2009 at 12:15 pm

          You’re referring to a few Braves playoff games that didn’t sell out, which is absolutely true. However, they were a small percentage of dozens of Braves playoff games over the course of 14 straight postseason appearances. We are consistently referred to as one of the worst sports towns in America, and it’s probably deserved. With 5.5 million residents in the metro area, we have a huge base, but half of those people were not born in Atlanta. It’s normal to go to a sporting event of the big four teams and have a significant percentage of the crowd wearing the visitor’s colors.

          However, we have a very large Hispanic population that will come out and support their teams. I look forward to seeing the Mexican national team play here and would love to see Interliga matches at the Georgia Dome. Didn’t Mexico announce recently that their clubs would no longer participate in South American tournaments?

          As for Tampa & Miami: We don’t consider Florida, especially south Florida to be Southern. Tampa & Miami’s failures should not reflect on Atlanta, Nashville, Charlotte, or Birmingham, all cities with over a million residents.

          • RaiderRich2001

            July 28, 2009 at 1:57 pm

            I hear you, but I’m not the one that makes the decisions on where the MLS expands to.

  24. loch

    July 27, 2009 at 10:01 am

    I also disagree to a certain extent that more soccer coverage on TV will hurt the MLS. While it is true that there is a decent base of soccer fans here in the U.S., the numbers are still small compared to the major sports. Exposing casual soccer fans to the ‘best’ leagues/games will turn those casual fans into passionate supporters. The MLS will benefit through the addition of more soccer fans in the United States. Before I became a Liverpool supporter, I would never watch a MLS game. Now, I enjoy watching them and will even (gasp) watch a WPS game on occasion.

  25. ish

    July 27, 2009 at 9:57 am

    or because all in all its a glorified friendly and chelsea havent made any signings of real note.
    Owen was bought when every1 was past it and when he scored suddenly he isnt past it, even though the quality they played against was dreadfully low.

    On the italian teams, they start training and pre-season later then most EPL clubs because serie a starts 2 weeks after it. Many of the italian players were still in holiday mode. Inter played with many of its major players away since they had just finished Confed Cup, thats why you didnt see cesar between the posts for most of the games.

  26. The Gaffer

    July 27, 2009 at 9:53 am

    Here’s The Guardian’s article about Chelsea’s tour of the US:

    The article reveals that Chelsea will probably be coming back next summer. If so, expect a lot more B and C team players to get playing time because the A team players will be knackered after a long English season followed by the World Cup.

    The Gaffer

  27. Mike

    July 27, 2009 at 9:46 am

    The reason the British media have generally ignored Chelsea’s successful US tour is because of the hate towards the club from the red top media. Thats all.

  28. steve

    July 27, 2009 at 9:37 am

    I’m on the other side…. I don’t think the increase in European coverage will hurt MLS. It may not help it to increase in popularity to the level of MLB or the NBA, but it isn’t going to hurt.
    In my personal experience, I gave soccer no thought whatsoever until Howard went to ManU. I was intrigued to see how an American would do playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world. From that spark, I got hooked on the EPL and have been watching ever since. But I have also grown to appreciate the MLS and find myself watching more games (especially DC United) every year. I don’t think the quality is as good as in Europe, but I will watch it much more than I did before being exposed to the EPL.

  29. kent

    July 27, 2009 at 9:19 am

    Went to the Chelsea-America match last night, 57,000 and the place was so loud you couldn’t hear the P.A. announcer. Two smoke bombs/flares set off in the America end, lots of horns and whistling, good crowds for both clubs and constant noise through out the whole match.

    Gaffer, you touched on something I have been telling friends for a few weeks now. With ESPN getting Budesliga and La Liga, and possibly bidding on the Premier League rights soon, the MLS is going to get blown out of the water by European football. People are going to get a chance to watch the best football in the world and are going to leave MLS behind and since it is going to be on ESPN, they are going to promote the crap out of it and it will be all over sports center. When ESPN decides something is big, then in most of America’s eyes, it is big.

    Oh and as an Arsenal fan, I want to see the Gunners in America.

    • RaiderRich

      July 27, 2009 at 9:47 am

      And if they don’t get the EPL, you’re going to see less soccer highlights on the network outside of the World Cup. They’re just showing the highlights now because they’re in the bidding phase.

  30. Katie

    July 27, 2009 at 8:32 am

    I was at the match in Baltimore. 70,000 seats sold and you could hear a pin drop in that place. Why? because America may be growing in football culture but the lack of tradition and history leaves these masses of yobs in their freshly purchased Chelsea blue not knowing one song to sing.
    I found it embarrassing. Bars in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor pimped out with Chelsea paraphernalia from wall to wall only to cash in for one day, because assuredly, the decor has already gone back to Orioles or Ravens.
    Who are ya? Where were you yesterday? Where the F*ck will you be tomorrow?
    Sure, clubs make money. But it left a bad taste in my mouth. 70,000 doesn’t ensure a good atmosphere. And it wasn’t. These people aren’t mad for it the other 364 days of a year.

    • RaiderRich

      July 27, 2009 at 11:10 am

      “Who are ya? Where were you yesterday? Where the F*ck will you be tomorrow?”

      Hopefully, at the next DC United game.

      The crowd may not have been to your liking, but out of that 70,000 there’s probably about 35,000-50,000 that are now soccer fans that maybe weren’t before. Give them time.

    • JB

      July 27, 2009 at 12:10 pm

      Katie, I think you touched on a valid point, but unfortunately most Americans don’t have an easy way to learn the songs other than by listening to them at a game or on youtube. Good luck trying to understand the words by watching a game on tv or G-dforbid online. Unlike Brits who can go to the games and have been taught the songs by their parents, uncles, grandfathers, etc, we don’t have an easy way to learn the songs other than by sitting in front of our computers and singing along. Which personally, I’m not going to do. Another factor you have to consider is that Americans generally don’t sing much at sporting events, unless you’re really wasted and they play a song in between innings or plays in baseball/football. The only exception is college football/basketball.

      Personally, I became a Chelsea fan a few years back after visiting London and staying in Kensington. My wife and I went to a pub and watched a boxing day match with a bunch of Chelsea fans. I had never been exposed to english football and really enjoyed it. When I got back to the states I started to follow the EPL more and more and naturally picked Chelsea after my experience in the Kensington/Earl’s Court area. Now I’m a diehard Chelsea fan, but in all honesty I don’t know any of the songs by heart. It’s not like I can go to Stamford Bridge and learn at the games. I hope to learn them some day, but I’m not sure I will, because I don’t have time to sit in front of a PC and sing along to Celery or Blue is the Colour.

    • Kartik Krishnaiyer

      July 27, 2009 at 4:30 pm

      Katie, is it possible the US can develop its own football culture and nuances or must we mimic England all the time?

      • IanCransonsKness

        July 28, 2009 at 12:29 am

        “is it possible the US can develop its own football culture and nuances or must we mimic England all the time?”

        It’s what you need to do. I don’t see anything wrong with following the fortunes of a foriegn club but to develop a strong and competitive domestic league you must make the effort to become involved with your local teams.

        Adopting the Academy system makes sense, particularly so given the dearth of ignored or unrecognised talent in the States that could be tapped into. The Austin Aztex will be an interesting experiment from this side of the pond as we (Stoke City) see them as having great potential for developing players from this untapped market.

        I would say go out and support your local team, still watch ESPN or FOX, but the only way to really feel involved or learn about it first hand is to see it live as often as possible at any level.

    • Jamie

      July 27, 2009 at 8:09 pm

      Most of us who were in those pubs gather on the weekends during the season to watch Chelsea, save up money to go to at least one or two matches at the Bridge each season, chat with other Chelsea fans and discuss all the latest Chelsea news…

      I do not know where you were sitting at the stadium, Katie, but there was a whole section of Blues fans organized by the Chelsea in America Supporters Club sitting behind one of the goals singing as best we could and supporting their team. The pubs decked out in Chelsea garb were also helping out our American Supporters Club by giving us a place to gather and it was nice of them to get in the spirit of things.

  31. Eladio

    July 27, 2009 at 8:31 am

    Leave the Italian’s at home. I’d love to see Arsenal here for personal reasons. I’d also like to see Munich, Wolfsburg, or Stuttgart, plus one of the 2 La Liga teams. Celtic or Rangers would get a big crowd in the states too, especially in the Northeast.

  32. steve

    July 27, 2009 at 8:11 am

    on #6 – there’s a nice article this morning in one of the Guardian I believe, about how successful Chelsea’s tour was and how great a response they received.

    • The Gaffer

      July 27, 2009 at 8:41 am

      That’s good news, Steve. I’ll have to hunt down that article from The Guardian so I can read it this morning.

      Last week I contacted Sean Ingle from The Guardian to make him aware that while The Guardian wrote an article about the success in Asia, but nothing was written about the success in the US. Hopefully that helped spur them to write the article you saw this morning.

      The Gaffer

  33. AtlantaPompey

    July 27, 2009 at 7:13 am

    A great tournament with some great teams. I hope it returns in 2011 at new venues with four different teams. I would love to see an English team, a Spanish team, an Italian team, and one from South America, such as River Plate or Boca Juniors or Sao Paulo.

    America could host the next World Cup in about a week. We have about 50 stadiums that are large enough and rarely used. We have the infrastructure such as hotels, transportation, media support, etc. The real purpose of this tournament was to show off that infrastructure to the world.

    Soccer is definitely mainstream in America, as long as you’re not talking about MLS. I’m afraid the league hasn’t realized that they have to compete against the rest of the world. There isn’t a big league in the entire world that is not featured on American television. On any given weekend I can watch the following: England, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Netherlands, Russia, Mexico, Colombia, Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, and occasionally even an MLS game. Some of those leagues are more accessible on television that MLS, which while living in a city without a MLS team, makes it easier to follow. MLS has to raise the level of play and attract serious talent soon, or they will never be taken seriously in this country.

    I have read a few examples of the British media taking us seriously in the last week or so, but mainly connected to our obvious disgust with Beckham disrespecting our league and the Galaxy. Maybe seeing almost 800,000 spectators for the World Football Challenge, Gold Cup, and a few friendlies against MLS teams so far will open a few eyes.

    • RaiderRich

      July 27, 2009 at 9:38 am

      The problem is, it’s a double-edged sword. MLS needs to raise the cap, but they can’t unless more people start watching it and buying tickets.

      Also, we already tried a capless league once in this country. That league no longer exists.

      The real problem the MLS has is it really hasn’t done enough to tap into the soccer-ready Hispanic community. Less Beckhams and more Blancos and Angels as DPs are be better in the short term (and that seems to be the trend when MLS clubs sign DPs) but it really doesn’t fix the biggest problem: getting the kids from that community involved in the game.

      Specifically, they haven’t done enough to break the pay-for-play system that dominates the youth leagues, and, for the most part, excludes minority players. If the MLS would just go into the community, find these kids, sign them to their academy young like other clubs do, and bring back the reserve teams so they have a place to play, they’d have a bigger talent pool to pick from (which elevates the play on the field), and consequently more fan support from the Hispanic community who can actually see someone from their neighborhood playing on the local team. Which of course, means more money and a bigger salary cap.

      Not saying it’s a magic bullet, but it would work a lot better than eliminating or softening the cap further with the purpose of trying to bring over more European stars. All that does is bring over more athletes with attitudes, which erodes one of the MLS’s (and soccer’s) major selling points over the Big 3.

      I’ve read more than one post on this site about how people are turning to soccer because they’re sick of the arrogance and attitudes of American Football, Basketball, and Baseball players, which is why folks are going after Beckham. They’ve seen player ego ruin other sports, and they don’t want to see it ruin their newly found sport. If it was Red Bull New York and not Real Madrid who ponied up the US$133 million for Cristiano Ronaldo, you’d see the same thing happen to him in New York (and maybe worse given the nature of the New York media, but that’s beside the point). Raising the salary cap to bring in more European players isn’t the answer, especially since there’s no guarantee of increased revenue. Finding and developing more players here is.

      • RaiderRich

        July 27, 2009 at 9:44 am

        Second sentence, second paragraph should read “Less Beckhams and more Blancos and Angels as DPs *would* be better in the short term…”


      • DaveMo

        July 27, 2009 at 10:06 am

        I think a lot of MLS clubs do have youth programs, but as you say they’re pay-for-play – not scouting programs that gather in the best talent regardless of financial status. The upside of the pay-for-play system is the programs are self-sustaining. If MLS clubs can’t afford to raise the salary cap until more people start going to the games and watching it on tv, then how are they going to foot the bill for a big youth reserve system? I agree that it would answer some of the league’s ills, but it’s just as much a catch 22 thing as the salary cap.

        • RaiderRich

          July 27, 2009 at 10:45 am

          Allocate more money for scouting and development from other areas. Putting money into finding and developing players that make the product more attractive pays off a lot better than marketing dollars, for instance.

          If you’re gonna charge young players, use some that money to set up “scholarships” for disadvantaged minorities so that they don’t have to pay their way. Or do what college sports do and set up foundations that pay for these scholarships.

          Take the money MLS gets from this World Football Challenge thing (yes, they got money from it) and put that towards each teams player scouting and player development.

          There’s a number of solutions available, it’s just a matter of being smart about your finances instead of wasting your money trying to bring over the next Beckham.

    • eplnfl

      July 27, 2009 at 12:01 pm

      AP: I was happy to see that you had a big game to attend in your home town. With two USMNT games in Chicago and of course the Fire it has been a great summer here. If a somewhat cold one, many complaints about gardens not doing well.

      I appreciate everyone’s point about how we can host a WC in 2018, but frankly do not understand why that is a issue. We have hosted a World Cup for both Men and Women soccer and our ability to do it again is not doubted. Frankly, Eurosnobs bring up that line just to subvert our bid.We are ready, willing, and able. Remember when South Africa’s bid was in question, we where the back up plan.

      The biggest question after the tour and Gold Cup is what will MLS do. It appears that it’s own low risk policies are hurting it’s growth. America will clearly pay to see great soccer and big players. MLS MUST act to capture the audience. Big names have to be paid to play in America. That is a fact.

      Finally, why bother with the English media. They are completely wrapped up with there own selfs and will never give our side of the pond credit for having good fans or good football.

      • RaiderRich

        July 27, 2009 at 12:38 pm

        “Big names have to be paid to play in America. That is a fact.”

        It’s also a fact that the NASL folded because they brought in big names and, other than the Cosmos, couldn’t draw at the box office or get a decent TV deal.

        Also, look at the Beckham situation… You’re going to lose the very big portion of the U.S. soccer audience that is ticked off at the big 3 sports because of the egos and attitudes of the players and is turning to soccer for something different. European soccer players have exactly the same attitude as most athletes in the big 3 in the U.S. and bringing more of them over here is just going to make things worse, not better, for the the MLS’s image.

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