On Wednesday night ESPN televised a friendly match between the Chicago Fire and Club America. The match represented the beginning of what has become an annual summer ritual in the United States; the criss crossing of the nation by prominent soccer clubs playing matches against both MLS Not surprisingly, these games are not all about soccer. The foreign 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.
This year, the annual World Football Challenge has been replaced by the Guinness International Champions Cup. Participants include Real Madrid, AC Milan, Chelsea and the lone MLS representative, the Los Angeles Galaxy. Games will be televised on Fox Soccer.
At the same time, ESPN will be televising a Summer Soccer Series over the next few weeks. These games will include the All-Star Game, DC United against Chivas and the U-20 World Cup Final.
Overall, we think that these games are great for MLS. Every time that a fan of a team like Juventus, Valencia 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 and provides rare television exposure for many MLS sides.
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