If a conversation today with a soccer-loving pal starts something like this, “Hey what about that fancy, foreign club over here in the States to play in a friendly?” … you had better darn well say which one.
Because, brother, you can barely swing a bag of practice balls around a U.S. pro ground without whacking someone here with a crest from points beyond. The high season of highly profitable friendlies is upon us, a time when clubs from around the world take advantage of good facilities, good summer weather and relative anonymity to train in North America.
They layer in a series of preseason friendlies as part of their 2012-13 season prep. So, fans here get to see the storied clubs and their high-dollar men in person.
Partial list of moneyed clubs from the Old World now on our shores, or soon arriving, for training and matches:
- Paris Saint-Germain
- Aston Villa
- Tottenham Hotspur
- AC Milan
- Real Madrid
As I said, that’s just a portion of the fancy and fantastic. There are lesser known likes from Nottingham Forest, Swansea City, Stoke City and Montpellier, for instance. And there are teams from points south (Honduras’ Olimpia and Argentina’s famed Boca Juniors, for instance).
Heck, there are even national teams on the way over the next month, like Chile, Jamaica, Ecuador and El Salvador, to name just some.
Increasingly, these friendlies have the added zing of including U.S. internationals. Michael Bradley, recently signed by Roma, will be here with his new club. Roma meets Liverpool inside historic Fenway Park next week.
Brad Guzan (pictured), who just re-signed with Aston Villa, is traveling and training here. Up first for the U.S. backup and his teammates from Villa Park (including young U.S. international Eric Lichaj) is a match tonight against the Chicago Fire.
As a case-study in the increasing media interest in these games, tonight’s passing and trapping from Toyota Park will be live-blogged, and how about that? Details on that are here.
A few years ago, a team like Aston Villa could have come over to the United States, and the only media mention would be the maddeningly cliché “Fans like them some soccer” story in the local paper.
And, of course, Clint Dempsey could still make the U.S. touring scene, if and when he moves to Liverpool – assuming he makes any such move before Liverpool’s U.S. tour finale, against EPL rival Tottenham Hotspur on July 28 in Baltimore.
Here’s the full list of U.S. friendlies, courtesy of always friendly soccer writer Steven Goff of The Washington Post.