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European Soccer Clubs Plan Summer Invasion Of North America

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.

I would argue that the 45 MLS games between June 25 and July 31 will be a blur for the majority of soccer fans in the United States. In fact, for the majority of soccer fans in the United States, that five week spell of 45 games (representing 10% of the entire season) will be absolutely meaningless. But in fairness to Major League Soccer, what are they supposed to do? They have a business to run and they insist on playing a Spring to Autumn calendar. But seriously, it would be best for Major League Soccer to not play at all during the World Cup and, instead, work with soccer promoters to jump on the bandwagon and schedule double-headers of a MLS game followed by a friendly featuring international teams.

The last thing I’ll mention is that it’s very likely that a few more high profile European teams will announce more preseason tours this summer. It’s a healthy sign for soccer fans in the United States that the sport is finally taking off. For too many years, Asia has been the preferred destination for top European teams. But now, finally, North America will have its turn to bask in the sunshine.

Here’s the list of the 14 European teams playing in North America this summer including the games that have been announced thus far:

England

  • Manchester City (v Portland Timbers, Merlo Field (University of Portland), Portland, Oregon, July 17 (season ticket holders only); v New York Red Bull and Sporting Lisbon, Red Bull Arena, Harrison NJ, July 22-25 (tickets); v Club America, Georgia Dome, Atlanta, July 28 (tickets); v Inter Milan, M&T Stadium, Baltimore, July 31 (tickets).
  • Manchester United (v Celtic, BMO Field, Toronto, July 16 (tickets); v Philadelphia Union, Lincoln Financial Stadium, July 21 (tickets); v Kansas City Wizards, Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO, July 25 (tickets); v MLS All-Star team, Reliant Stadium, Houston, July 27 (tickets); v Chivas, Guadalajara, Mexico, July 30).
  • Tottenham Hotspur (v San Jose Earthquakes, Buck Shaw Stadium, San Jose, July 18 (tickets); v New York Red Bull and Sporting Lisbon, Red Bull Arena, Harrison NJ, July 22-25 (tickets).
  • Bolton Wanderers (v Charlotte Eagles, Restart Field, Charlotte, North Carolina July 14 (tickets); v Charleston Battery, Blackbaud Stadium, Daniel Island, South Carolina, July 17 (tickets); v Toronto FC, BMO Field, Toronto (tickets).
  • Portsmouth (v Club America, San Diego, July 17; v Edmonton Select, Edmonton, July 21; D.C. United, Washington D.C., July 24).

Italy

  • AC Milan (v DC United, RFK Stadium, Washington DC, May 26; v Chicago Fire, Toyota Park, Chicago, May 30; v Montreal Impact, Olympic Stadium, Montreal, June 2)
  • Fiorentina (v Montreal Impact, Saputo Stadium, Montreal, May 23; v Juventus, Rogers Centre, Toronto, May 25); v AC Milan, Olympic Stadium, Montreal, June 2)
  • Juventus (v Red Bull New York, Red Bull Arena, Harrison NJ, May 23; v Fiorentina, Rogers Centre, Toronto, May 25)

Spain

  • Valencia ( v New England Revolution, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Aug. 3; v DC United, RFK Stadium, Aug. 7 or 8]

Portugal

  • Sporting Lisbon (v Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City, Red Bull Arena, Harrison NJ, July 22-25 (tickets; v Glasgow Celtic, July 21 Fenway Park, Boston)

Scotland

  • Glasgow Celtic (v Manchester United, July 16 or 17, BMO Field, Toronto (tickets); v Rangers, July 21, Fenway Park, Boston; v Toronto FC, BMO Field, Toronto; v Philadelphia Union, July 14, PPL Park, Philadelphia; v Sporting Lisbon, July 21 Fenway Park, Boston)
  • Glasgow Rangers (v Celtic, July 21, Fenway Park, Boston; v DC United, RFK Stadium, Washington DC, July 24, v Club America, Dallas Cowboys Stadium, July; v team TBD, Miami, July; v team TBD, New York, July)

France

  • Paris Saint-Germain (v Chicago Fire, Toyota Park, Chicago, May 19, v Legia Warsaw or Red Star Belgrade, May 22)

Poland

  • Legia Warsaw (v Red Star Belgrade, Toyota Park, Chicago, May 19, v Chicago Fire or Paris Saint-Germain, May 22)

Serbia

  • Red Star Belgrade (v Legia Warsaw, Toyota Park, Chicago, May 19, v Chicago Fire or Paris Saint-Germain, May 22)

For the updated list of Premier League teams on preseason tours this summer, visit EPL Talk’s Preseason Friendlies page which will be updated all summer long courtesy of EPL Talk blogger John Boschini.

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35 Comments

35 Comments

  1. N

    July 4, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    columbus crew plays stOke city in july

  2. Viraj

    July 14, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    Real Madrid is coming to Los angeles, for a friendly match with LA galaxy, its on the 7th of August 2010

  3. Dave

    May 18, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    While you’re updating the schedule, the Sounders have announced that Celtic will be playing in Seattle July 18, so a 7/16 or 17 Celtic match in Toronto seems unlikely, in addition to the Rangers game on 7/21.

  4. John

    May 16, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Would be nice of Kroenke could get his Arsenal squad to cross the pond and head to Denver to play his Rapids.

  5. Bobby

    May 12, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    Any idea as to why all of the games in Chicago are being played in Toyota Park? Why would Soldier Field not be utilized? I want to go to those games but I struggle to see how I will be able to get a decently priced ticket

  6. bradjmoore48

    May 11, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Not sure if this list is going to be updated, but Rangers and Valencia have both pulled out of US tours this summer. Philly will be playing Celtic instead of Valencia on July 14th.

    http://www.mls-daily.com/2010/05/valencia-latest-to-pull-out-of-us-tour.html

    • The Gaffer

      May 11, 2010 at 9:05 pm

      Brad, thanks for the heads-up. We’ll update the article soon to reflect the changes in the schedule.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  7. CTBlues

    May 4, 2010 at 9:44 am

    Any word on Celtics new third jersey?

  8. Super Ayr

    April 30, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    The Rangers v Celtic game now looks in jeopardy after comments made in a Boston newspaper about Rangers fans.
    An apology has been forthcoming after many complaints were made including one from Rangers football club itself.
    Comments were made, incorrectly, about the cause of the Ibrox disastor in 1971, in which 66 people died.

  9. tom

    April 30, 2010 at 8:33 am

    as a rangers loyalist its a bad idea to have this game in boston i see nothing but trouble occuring….but as of now martin bain from the rangers said they are no where near a contract for that game and blythe vice predisent for the club is pushing rangers not to have the game in boston…i would love to see a firm match in the US but boston isnt a good city when there is no ticket segregation. here is the article it was written yesterday. cheers
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/leagues/scottishpremier/rangers/7653651/Rangers-win-apology-over-Ibrox-Disaster-error-in-Boston-Globe-newspaper.html

  10. boringarsenal

    April 25, 2010 at 12:53 am

    Why doesn’t Arsenal come around? Rumor has it that Wenger doesn’t care for these traveling off-season friendlies. And rumor has it that if ‘Silent Stan’ takes control of the club, he’ll exploit the Arsenal brand, and that means off-season friendlies, yes?
    One more note of interest, Gaffer; with all due respect, I don’t know anyone who follows MLS. Yes, I realize they must have supporters, but if you want the best, why spend time with MLS? It’s really OK that we Yanks who have a passion for football, will be devoting our time following English and European competitions. It’s all global now, and unfortunately, MLS is in a precarious position with football fans who, through the wonders of satellite, cable and the internet, are able to follow the best there is.

    • Devils Advocate

      April 25, 2010 at 7:35 am

      boringarsenal..Regarding choice of watching the EPL, La Liga etc. over MLS, this is going to be a tough call currently, I guess a bit like any kid in a candy store with a plethora of choices but I believe it’s crucial to take an interest in and support the MLS. Americans already possess the passion and enthusiasm for the the game and are more skillful and tactically aware than they were even 4 years ago. The likes of Landon Donovan, Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey and Brad Friedel are proof you can cut it in the top flight of the EPL. From my viewpoint (in England) it’s only a matter of time before the US is able to compete more effectively with its European counterparts.

      As a long time supporter of football, I remember the time when English teams were viewed as less skillful/tactically aware as the better teams in mainland Europe. But our general love of the game and patriotism saw us through that. I believe that the MLS will develop and become more attractive in the coming years and partnerships with teams from the EPL and Europe will only speed up the process.

  11. eplnfl

    April 23, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    It appears that the success of soccer in the US/Canada has lead to an expansion of European touring teams to the US and Canada. This year we see a large number of games scheduled after the conclusion of the European season instead of just prior to the start of the new season. This tells me that fan interest is up and profits are to be made. Also we should include in the mix the WC Cup squads of the US and Mexico which will be holding warm up matches in the US before heading to South Africa.

    I must disagree with Chris on the negative effects on all of this for MLS. The upsurge in interest in MLS is in part due to the friendlies between MLS teams and European squads which generally have cast MLS in a favorable light to those who get a chance to see the games. Large crowds have been the norm for those match-ups bringing in lots of extra dollars for MLS. Also, and Chris would know this better than I but the marketing arm of MLS is often involved in many of the events even when MLS team are not involved. I believe this is the case with the Mexican National team.

    I think MLS has made the right move in taking off during the first stage of the World Cup but picking back up after the first round is over makes sense. The number of games on TV are limited and the fans have more opportunity and need then to see a live game after the first round. A deep run by the USA will mean a lot to MLS attendance that is true but to write off a month during the summer due to the touring of European teams strikes a superior note. The fan who sees his team play a European power one week should be motivated by the display to see his team in league battles the next week.

    The recent growth of interest in the US has been helped by European team touring, yet the success and presence of MLS has also made it all possible. It is a win win event in my mind for all involved.

  12. coachie ballgames

    April 23, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    Gaffer, great column, your points regarding the battle MLS faces are spot-on. This could be a really anonymous summer for the league mainstream-attention-wise.

  13. Y. Navti

    April 23, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    The only issue I have with these games is that the star players may not be part of the teams due to the world cup. I recall back in 2002 or 2006 after the world cup going to a match between Bayern Munich and Manchester United in Chicago that ended up being a snooze fest as Manchester United practically had their B or C team on display. Just hope that the fans don’t get a raw deal and end up watching the reserve team rather than the first teams.

    • Jeff

      April 23, 2010 at 7:46 pm

      I was thinking the same thing. Do you think Rooney is going to be playing with Manchester United or Tevez for City? The players that are playing in the World Cup will most likely not be playing in these matches. Which really stinks considering all the great teams that are coming.

      • Devils Advocate

        April 24, 2010 at 11:04 pm

        Jeff…I would have thought all players representing their respective countries at the World Cup will not be touring and some teams will clearly be affected more than others. I am confident, however, that the EPL teams are all too aware of the importance of putting on a good show in the States.

  14. meinerfugue

    April 23, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    plus one last time to catch zizou?
    current rumours say messi, ronaldinho, zidane, kaka, henry, & beckham

    “The rosters have not been filled yet but organizers say they are targeting retired French legend Zinedine Zidane. Once-great Brazilian and former F.C. Barcelona star Ronaldinho is also a likely candidate since has close ties to the UN’s program.”

    via riverfront times

    Via Tribal Football:
    “I’m thrilled that St. Louis will be hosting the Players for Peace Goodwill Game,” said Mayor Francis G. Slay. “Not only does this event serve a great cause, but it will bring visitors – including some of the world’s best soccer players – to eat in our restaurants, sleep in our hotels, and visit our many attractions. I know these international visitors will return home to share great stories of their experiences in St. Louis.”

    Former United States National and Hall of Fame player Eric Wynalda will coach “The Rest of the World” squad. Brazilian legend Carlos Alberto Torres, who served as captain of Brazil’s 1970 Mexico World Cup championship team, will coach the South American team. Assistant coaches will be AC St. Louis’ Francisco Filho (South America) and former England International Terry Fenwick (“The Rest of the World”).

    “The Rest of the World” and South American squads will be chosen by a selection committee comprised of the following Players for Peace Ambassadors: Elias Figueroa (Chile), Chairman of Players for Peace; Steve Leighton (USA), CEO of Players for Peace; Carlos Alberto Torres (Brazil); Eric Wynalda (USA); Carlos Valderama (Columbia); Tefilio Cubillas (Peru); Osvaldo Ardiles (Argentina); Terry Fenwick (Caribbean); and Shep Messing (USA).”

  15. shane

    April 23, 2010 at 11:22 am

    I find it extremely odd that these tours are only focusing on the East Coast.

    Why would they virtually ignore CA? I would think it would also be good for clubs to visit the Southwest where tons of White kids and Latinos love football.

  16. bradjmoore48

    April 23, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Gaffer,

    What is your source for the DC United – Valencia friendly? I had read rumors the 3rd DC United international friendly would be Blackburn.

    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/soccerinsider/2010/04/dc_united_where_things_stand.html#more

  17. Cricketlover

    April 23, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Thank God Liverpool are not coming. Who would want to see mediocrity on display. It would set back soccer in this country by years :).

    Seriously, I’ve been very surprised that Liverpool haven’t come here considering they have American owners. Of course the club might have new owners very soon but regardless of ownership it is suprising that Liverpool haven’t tried to market themselves here.

  18. Axel

    April 23, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Any ideas if Chelsea or Liverpool are crossing the pond to the US this year?

    • The Gaffer

      April 23, 2010 at 10:05 am

      Axel, no news about Chelsea and Liverpool coming this summer… YET. But it doesn’t look likely that Liverpool will be coming.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  19. Brian

    April 23, 2010 at 9:31 am

    A few things, first the Boston Red Sox will not allow Fenway Park to be turned into a soccer field right in the middle of their season. Second, Fenway is too small to set up a pitch, and it only has a capacity of about 37k. If there is a game it will be played in Foxoboro at Gillette Stadium, where there is a full size pitch and a capacity of around 69k.

    Also, the Boston Herald is reporting this here:
    http://boston.com/community/blogs/less_is_more/2010/04/old_firm_to_play_at_gillette.html

    • The Gaffer

      April 23, 2010 at 10:09 am

      Brian, The Boston Herald is reporting that the game will be played at Fenway Park – http://news.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view/20100422fenway_park_to_host_scottish_soccer_match_in_july/ The Red Sox will be on the road during the time when Rangers will play Celtic at Fenway. It’s not the perfect stadium for soccer, but it’ll be a one-of-a-kind experience.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • Brian

        April 23, 2010 at 11:32 am

        It seems we have conflicting reports from two different papers. I cited the Boston Globe, not the Herald (my error there).

        If the derby does end up at Fenway, I can’t wait to see how they lay down a pitch with the pitcher’s mound and infield in the way. Also, the reaction of Red Sox fans is sure to be brutal since why on earth would they want a soccer game destroying their field.

        In my opinion Fenway is the wrong location for this. There are sure to be “pre-match” festivities that could turn ugly since the location of Fenway is in a very confined area (I’ve been there). Gillette Stadium is a more proper venue for the Old Firm derby. Heck, Fenway has a lesser capacity (37k)than Ibrox which is around 44k.

        • The Gaffer

          April 23, 2010 at 11:51 am

          Brian, don’t forget that the Fenway Sports Group is looking to promote soccer after signing a deal with Fulham. Anything they can do to promote Fenway and soccer will be a win-win for them: http://bit.ly/39PBgF

          While Gillette has a larger capacity and is a better location, there’s a romanticism about Fenway Park and it’s a lot more of an interesting PR story that will help sell tickets than Gillette Stadium, which is not that attractive.

          Cheers,
          The Gaffer

          • Greg

            April 24, 2010 at 8:39 pm

            I’m more worried about how they’d keep the segragation, or how they’d sell the tickets, ticketmaster wouldn’t be able to guarentee fans avoiding each other, and the compactness of the area around Fenway is just a recipe for disaster

  20. AtlantaPompey

    April 23, 2010 at 9:31 am

    Glad to see Atlanta is getting a little love. Club America v Manchester City should be a decent matchup. Club America put 40,000 fans in the Georgia Dome last summer and should have no problem doing that again this year.

    Now, will The Special One be visiting Atlanta this summer? Hmmm……

    • Nancy

      May 28, 2010 at 6:20 pm

      Of course CLUB AMERICA will put more then enough people in any stadium! Doesn’t matter what team! With CLUB AMERICA a stadium will always be full! XD the biggest and bestest team in Mexico!

  21. CTBlues

    April 23, 2010 at 9:04 am

    This is amazing. I don’t know if I want to see Rangers play Celtic at the dump of a stadium called Fenway or one of the games at the crown jewel of US soccer stadia RedBull Arena.

  22. Robert

    April 23, 2010 at 8:03 am

    Don’t forget DC united v. AC Milan in DC on May 26, that one should be sold out already in DC.

    • The Gaffer

      April 23, 2010 at 9:09 am

      Thanks Robert. Wasn’t aware of that one. It’s now been added to the above list.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  23. Panda

    April 23, 2010 at 6:55 am

    I find it odd that no one is coming to Los Angeles (yet).

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