It’s looking more and more likely with every passing day that La Liga matches won’t be taking place in the U.S., or out of Spain in general, any time soon.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated and the Washington Post during a visit to Washington D.C., FIFA president Gianni Infantino expressed displeasure with the announcement from La Liga that they intend to take league matches to the U.S. and other countries abroad in the future. La Liga announced last week a landmark 15-year marketing rights deal with Relevant Sports, organizers of the International Champions Cup.
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“I think I would prefer much more a great MLS game in the U.S. rather than La Liga being in the U.S.,” Infantino reportedly said, adding that although he is “only” the FIFA president, FIFA would need to approve a league match played abroad, as would the Spanish football federation, U.S. Soccer, UEFA and CONCACAF. It appears that if just one of those governing bodies refuses to approve the decision, any official match abroad would be called off.
While attendance lagged in the U.S. this year, the ICC has been an overall success, expanding from just matches in the U.S. to also matches in East Asia and across Europe with more than a baker’s dozen of Europe’s top clubs. The marketing success of these friendly and exhibition matches surely formed the basis of La Liga’s decision to partner with Relevant Sports to try and bring official matches abroad. A decade ago, the Premier League considered a “39th game” played in cities across the world, but it was instantly met with harsh criticism from all over England, and the Premier League tabled the idea.
With international travel improving every year, it could be possible one day to see La Liga matches played in the U.S. or elsewhere. But it’s a slippery slope. If U.S. Soccer approves that, what’s to stop every other European league from requesting to play games in the U.S. to make a quick buck at the expense of the local fans, some of who go to every game, home and away.
In terms of when and where games are played, considering the NFL season takes place during the fall and winter and most soccer teams would prefer to use the massive NFL stadiums in this country, it’s likely that matches would have to take place either in late spring in Northern or Midwest U.S. cities or in the winter in cities like Miami, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Houston.