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Leverkusen and Schalke expand Bundesliga interest in USA

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Now that the new 5-year TV rights deal between FOX Sports and the Bundesliga has begun, the Bundesliga and its clubs have a keen interest in expanding the interest of the German league among soccer fans in the United States.

Bayern Munich already has a large supporter base in the US as well as a corporate office in New York City, but the two clubs outside of Munich that are trailblazers in expanding their presence in America are Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke 04. These two German clubs, both with great tradition, will travel to Florida in January to participate in the Florida Cup.

While these two Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region teams will have their players focused on friendlies against teams from Brazil and the United States, the main thrust of their club’s visit is to start establishing a stronger foothold in North America where they can grow their fan base and, undoubtedly, generate greater revenue in the long-term.

For Leverkusen, having Mexican international Javier Hernandez on its team helps increase their exposure in North America. It also helps that so far this season, the Chicharito has scored 11 goals in 17 Bundesliga and Champions League games.

While Schalke doesn’t have a US footballer, the club can look to its passionate supporters’ base and former footballers with an American connection (Jermaine Jones, Thomas Dooley and David Wagner) to help establish new fans in the United States.

SEE MORE: Videos and photos from World Soccer Talk’s recent visit to Schalke and Leverkusen.

Of course, winning new fans is easier said than done and it will take time. Bayer Leverkusen Chief Executive Officer Michael Schade understands the task at hand, and is focused on his club making its presence felt overseas.

“We want to go to Asia. We want to go to America. We think that you have to show up. Otherwise, you won’t get new fans.

“When I talked to my colleagues at Schalke, they had the same opinion. It’s a great opportunity for all of us and also the German Bundesliga.”

Schalke’s Alexander Jobst, member of the managing board at the club, agrees.

“The US is a very important market for the Bundesliga and also for our club Schalke 04 and that is the reason why, after many years of having our winter camps in other countries, we selected the USA as the host of our training camp,” said Jobst. “We expect wonderful training conditions and of course a challenging tournament which will help expand our brand also in the US in the future.

“We know that people [in the US] are getting more and more fascinated with European football. And we know that the German football is very popular as we are the current world champions. Therefore, it [makes sense] for us to go and visit [the United States].”

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While the intentions of Schalke and Leverkusen are commendable, Leverkusen’s CEO Michael Schade is honest about the challenges the clubs face marketing the league overseas.

“Maybe in the past we made a few mistakes because the Premier League started 10 years earlier with internationalization. And that was very helpful [to EPL teams] as far as I know. Most of the teams are playing overseas in the summer break.”

Rather than dwelling on the past, Bayer Leverkusen, especially, are committed to making great strides in the US.

“We would like to go to the United States once a year,” said Schade. “We did that this year. We’re going to do it [in January 2016]. And if we get the invitation, we’ll do that in the future as well. We believe in [the US] market.

“I think that you will see most of the Bundesliga clubs traveling [to the USA or Asia] during the next few years, maybe during the winter break or summer break.”

Throughout Schade’s candid interview with World Soccer Talk and US soccer journalists, Leverkusen’s CEO emphasized the need to be on the ground in the USA.

“I think that America is not only a fantastic country,” said Schade. “It’s a growing market for soccer. It’s also a growing market for marketing activities for European soccer clubs, but we have to show up.”

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Blue Lou

    December 7, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    Hey don’t forget that US immortal Chad Deering suited up for Schalke as well!

    Yes, English clubs have a head start in “internationalization”…but another huge reason the Bundesliga has such a giant hole to climb out of is their disastrous move from Fox to Gol during the past decade. Obviously they couldn’t know then that Qatari money would run Gol nearly out of business…but they should have had someone savvy enough to see that Fox would go on to give them absolutely ZERO exposure when they had the one and only international soccer studio show for American viewers for YEARS.

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