They're Coming to America: International Clubs, National Teams Invade USA
By Alex Fairchild
In 1964, the United States was invaded by Liverpool. The Beatles took the country by storm again and their footballing counterparts were doing the same. Both tours led to extreme success, as the band went onto sell plenty more hit records while the Reds won their first FA Cup.
It was the British Invasion multiplied by two.
The takeover of the United States has continued. European football clubs and international sides have inundated America since the early 1900s. They mob the USA not only for a change of scenery or to boost their fitness levels, but also to reap the financial rewards the trip can provide. This windfall is not short term either, as top-flight organizations look to build a following. Their wish is to influence fans in cities across the country in the hope that it will lead to them buying jerseys and other club gear.
Of last year's USA tour, Liverpool official Ian Ayre told LFC TV that the opportunity to head stateside was a chance to reward long-time supporters, attract new ones, and to help the club generate revenue via sponsorships. Their trip, to Boston especially, made for great publicity when they announced a relationship with American car manufacturer Chevrolet.
The players love these wildly successful trips. Last year, West Ham's Joe Cole bathed in the 100-degree heat in Boston, while Charlie Adam wondered about the academic prowess of Harvard University. Both players were enjoying their visit to Boston, as their now former club journeyed through the US and Canada.
Tottenham Hotspur in Baltimore joined them, after they were defeated by AS Roma at 'America's Most Beloved Ballpark' - Fenway Park. Over 37,000 attended the midweek meeting between the two superpowers. A makeshift version of the Shankly Gates was hung above supporters roaming Yawkey Way, while red and white scarves were draped around the city of Boston for a beautiful evening of football.
That night was a gift to the supporters. Liverpool supporter Daniel Cueva, 18, attended the match at Fenway. After the game he said, "It was the chance of a lifetime, I think I’m going to die happy now, because of that. It was the best sports experience I've had in a very long time.”
It was a magical night for all involved and many more events like that will occur this summer. In fact, some already have.
Manchester City and Chelsea ditched England just days after their domestic seasons came to a close. The two sides clashed in Yankees Stadium in New York and under the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. With Jose Mourinho in tow, the Blues will return to the United States in July where they will participate in the International Champions Cup - an answer to what was formerly the World Football Challenge.
This new competition will feature Italian rivals AC Milan, Internazionale, and Juventus along with Spain's Real Madrid and Valencia. The LA Galaxy will represent Major League Soccer and Everton will be the second English side. After matches in multiple cities, the contest will finish with a wonderful football festival. All 8 teams will descend on Sun Life Stadium in Miami for four games in two nights on August 6 and 7.
As far as national teams are concerned, several have descended on the States via CONCACAF's Gold Cup. Meanwhile, Spain, Ireland, and Haiti have already come to America to play in friendlies, while Mexico and Cote d'Ivoire have planned a visit for later in the summer. Come September, Portugal and Brazil are scheduled to play each other at Gillette Stadium outside of Boston, Mass.
On a smaller scale, Stoke City and Norwich City will play in North America in the coming weeks. The former is a repeat customer and chief executive Tony Scholes touted the success of last year's tour when asked by the club's website about a return to American shores. He said that the transfer of midfielder Brek Shea will boost the visit's prominence, as it will give the starlet the chance to play against his former club, FC Dallas.
Scholes believes that the American market is an excellent opportunity for Stoke City's expansion as an international outfit. He sees the deal between executives at NBC and the Premier League to telecast EPL games on the national network as boost to the development of the game in America. “It’s also a good time to be going back with an exciting feature of the new television agreement being NBC’s coverage which will enhance the Barclays Premier League’s profile in the United States and if there is one market right now where we can develop our own profile, then it has to be America due to the presence of three US internationals in our squad," said Scholes in an interview with the club's official website.
Europe is not alone in coming to the United States, as Latin American clubs have already got in on the action. In past years, Club America and Guadalajara have been involved in US tours and took part once again this summer, facing off against MLS clubs. Firpo of El Salvador visited the United States along with Mexico's Dorados and Morelia.
In the annual MLS All-Star Game, AS Roma will become the first non-British side to contest the domestic league's top footballers in a decade.
Over the next few months, teams will suffer in the sweltering heat in preparation for a new season. As they embark on their campaigns, they will have left an ever-lasting impression on the people and cities they visited. These teams will have new followers for life. However, their goal is to replicate what Liverpool did in 1964 - turn their summer of soccer into a season of success.