The World Football Challenge kicked off on Wednesday with Manchester United visiting Foxboro to take on the Revolution. The latest iteration of the Summer of Soccer features one of the strongest collection of teams we have seen touring the United States. These matches are part of the summer ritual in MLS. These teams criss-cross the United States preparing for their season by playing MLS sides and each other. Last year, ManU, Celtic and Everton were among the European powers crossing the pond to participate in an American Summer. Not surprisingly, these games are not all about soccer. The European teams are desperate to spread their brand to an American audience in an effort to collect fans and sell jerseys on these fertile shores.
At the same time, MLS teams can generate a large pay day by selling seats to see the foreign teams play (and these European teams don’t come for free). MLS squads view these games as an invaluable opportunity to showcase their talents (and very existence) to soccer fans in the States who typically ignore MLS. Some teams believe so strongly in these opportunities, that they readily shift MLS regular season matches to accommodate the games.
Overall, we think that these games are great for MLS. Every time that a fan of a team like Manchester United, Barcelona or Real Madrid enjoys their experience at an MLS game, is an opportunity to create a fan who comes back to see the players for their local side. Moreover, these events typically generate substantial revenue for the MLS Sides.
ESPN2 had the broadcast and provided a solid all around telecast. Pre-game ads included Hot Pockets, Modelo Especial (featuring Clint Dempsey), Dunkin Donuts, Allstate, VW, NAPA and more. VW and Allstate were specifically referenced as sponsoring the match. It will be interesting to see if these sponsors John Harkes (who seems to appear in every broadcast booth) was paired with Rob Stone. Stone and the pair was remarkably candid about some of the issues facing the Revolution like the lack of stadium, poor personnel decisions and more.