Barcelona recently announced a tour in the USA, part of its preseason schedule for next summer. Games are planned against Manchester United, AC Milan and Mexican Team America. For the last 10 years, professional clubs are touring in the US or Asia as preseason training. A new revenue stream and a compelling way to tap into their fan base abroad.
Barcelona’s first match of the tour will be at 91,704 seat FedEx Field in Washington, D.C. against Manchester United in a match up of arguably the two biggest clubs in the world. After their July 30th match against United, Barcelona will travel to Miami to play AC Milan on August 3rd. Barcelona’s United States tour will come to an end on August 6th in Dallas when they face off against the Mexican team, Club America.
The last time Barcelona toured the U.S. was in 2009 when they played primarily on the West Coast, including a sold out match with over 90,000 fans versus the Los Angeles Galaxy at the Rose Bowl. This time, Barcelona won’t be on the West Coast, but who knows which other clubs might play around the United States in 2011.
Last year, Real Madrid visited the U.S., along with Premier League clubs Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Bolton Wanderers. Summer trips to the U.S. for preseason friendlies have become the norm and Manchester United and AC Milan confirmed as playing in the summer of 2011 indicates that the two clubs will likely play additional matches in the country.
While summer friendlies in the U.S. generate media coverage and excitement for soccer in the country, the matches rarely live up to the hype. Mass substitutions and unavailable players are common in the friendlies and when Barcelona visits the U.S., they will likely play without Lionel Messi, Javier Mascherano and Dani Alves, who will be playing for Argentina and Brazil in Copa America until July 24.
Friendlies in the United States not only provide the world’s biggest clubs with a place to prepare for the upcoming season, but they also provide huge financial benefits for the club. Barcelona estimates that they will make approximately $8.1 million from the three match tour.
That $8 million will be on top of a five year, nearly $200 million shirt sponsorship with the Qatar Foundation as the club looks to put a dent in its debt that has been rumored to top $600 million. [Source: SB Nation.com].
Summer tours are not not really a new trend for professional football clubs. Global clubs have a strong market outside of their home turf. Touring in the US is a great way to show to their abroad fans that they do matter. Obviously, the return on investment is significant as TV rights, merchandise sales, match fee etc come into place.