Soccer fans in North America either love or hate this time of year. Major League Soccer is in full swing and the US national team are often qualifying or competing for something.
But then around July, all hell breaks lose as a plethora of teams from England and Europe descend on the US to play friendly tournaments galore. MLS teams suddenly see all their free time clogged up by scrimmages in packed out stadiums, as ‘friendlies’ all of a sudden become more important than league games.
In some cases anyway. (Ahem, Seattle against Chelsea and Manchester United…)
And this summer will be no different, with six English teams touring the US starting at various dates and locations. The EPL outfits will be using the beautiful summer climate and top notch facilities as their preseason base, away from the hustle and bustle of Great Britain’s blustery soccer-obsessed shores.
These are the English sides currently penciled in to tour the US: Chelsea, Everton, Stoke City, Wigan Athletic, Manchester City and Norwich City. And maybe there will be more with hastily arranged preseason plans. Who knows. But come on over.
Wow. Simply put, there are plenty of chances to see some of England’s finest teams this summer. And don’t forget Chelsea and Manchester City have already played two games in the US, the week after the EPL season finished in May. They love a jaunt over the Atlantic. And other top teams from Europe will be joining the English invasion of North America, as the Guinness International Champions Cup takes place.
So will this trend continue to get bigger over the coming years? Some teams may start to mix it up but many have argued that North America provides so many pluses for preseason preparation that it is hard to turn down.
Stoke City have plenty of links in America and the deals for Brek Shea and Geoff Cameron both included stipulations that Stoke must play a preseason friendly against FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo. Proving just how lucrative these games are to MLS franchises.
But do the friendlies harm MLS teams who don’t rest enough during the strain of playing multiple games a week, in the heat of summer?
Of course squad players are rotated around. But after Seattle were hammered 7-0 by Manchester United a few years back in a ‘friendly’ they aimed to put on more of an effort when Chelsea rolled into town. They lost 4-2 but gave the English giants a run for their money.
The argument of should MLS teams value these friendlies more, always pops up. As many believe beating EPL opposition sends out a message to the rest of the world that Major League Soccer is improving.
But I say, ‘So what?’ It is only a friendly and the English sides are only in preseason. The result doesn’t matter. But the fact that English sides keep coming back definitely helps soccer continue to rise in the US.
So form an orderly queue, or come over on tour all at once. Either way, a summer full of MLS, Gold Cup and EPL friendlies suits me, and US soccer, down to the ground.