As international football fans are well aware, there isn’t truly an extended offseason for professional footballers. And in 2014—a World Cup year, of course—there’s really no time off. Mere weeks after the conclusion of the World Cup, many of the top clubs were back in action playing friendlies and exhibition events. This year, those of us in the U.S. who make a habit of following the English Premier League are getting a special treat in the form of several of England’s top clubs embarking on U.S. tours. Here’s a look at the EPL clubs making a stateside impact.
Arsenal isn’t really going on a U.S. tour like some other EPL clubs, but it did kick off the action in New York City against the Red Bulls of MLS on July 26 to the delight of a fairly massive U.S. fan base. Arsenal have long been one of the most internationally recognizable EPL clubs. Also, when you consider the fact that the New York Red Bulls still play Thierry Henry—former Arsenal superstar and one of the best players to ever play in the MLS (even if in the later stages of his career)—this was a pretty intriguing matchup for U.S.-based EPL fans.
It would have been quite something to see Henry score against his former club in New York. While we didn’t get to see this, fans were treated to the next best thing: Henry’s corner in the 33rd minute set up teammate Bradley Wright-Phillips for the game’s only goal, with the Red Bulls taking the exhibition 1-0. As noted at the team website, Arsenal also found some time to enjoy the city and interact with fans, playing a mini-game at Grand Central Station and instructing youth players.
It should be noted that many U.S. fans still tune in to the World Cup with a great deal more attention than everyday EPL action. For that reason, Liverpool is probably going to take a popularity hit (though it’s perhaps too early to say just yet) in the States. With Luis Suarez’s biting incident being one of the biggest headlines of the Cup—and now with Suarez and all of his thrilling goal scoring ability on the way to Barcelona—Liverpool has undoubtedly lost some of its international intrigue. Nevertheless, the club has a strong base in the states, with many MLS cities hosting Liverpool fan clubs and sports bars for watch parties and the like.
So, it has been and will continue to be a thrill for many fans to have Liverpool touring the U.S. The club lost an exhibition with AS Roma 1-0 in Boston, but they defeated Olympiacos 1-0 in Chicago in the first round of the Guinness International Champions Cup. Cup action continues on July 30 when Liverpool will take on Manchester City at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, NY, and then again on August 2 when Liverpool will face AC Milan in Charlotte, North Carolina. The final for the Cup will be on August 4 in Miami, an increasingly enthusiastic football city hoping to get a boost from a David Beckham-owned team in the near future.
Oddly enough, after a disastrous season in 2013-14, Manchester United may be the most intriguing EPL club touring the U.S.—and it’s not just because they probably have the biggest fan base in the States. Really, it’s because new head coach Louis van Gaal, a determined Wayne Rooney, and exciting potential additions seem poised to rebound nicely in the coming campaign. On July 23, U.S. fans were treated to an odd but thrilling massacre, as Man U dismantled the LA Galaxy 7-0. And make no mistake, this delighted most U.S. fans who aren’t specifically loyal to the Galaxy. It was a bit of a snooze in terms of competition, and it doesn’t exactly bode well for MLS following a summer of U.S. football optimism. However, American fans want to see goals from European sides, no matter what. July 26 brought another strong showing from the Man U offense in a 3-2 win (with two goals from Rooney) over AS Roma in the opening round of the Guinness International Champions Cup.
Furthermore, if we’re to believe Michael Lintorn of Betfair’s Premier League news section, these displays were only the beginning because Man U is expected to keep scoring in bunches. The next chances to watch Man U in the States come on July 29 against Inter Milan in Washington, D.C., on August 2 against Real Madrid in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and potentially in the August 4 final in Miami.
Here’s another English club with a large following in the U.S. that includes a particularly enthusiastic base in New York City and likely a growing base nationwide following yet another EPL win in 2014. Manchester City has also come to the States for the Guinness International Champions Cup competition. They opened with a 5-1 destruction of AC Milan at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and will next take on Liverpool in the aforementioned July 30 match in New York City. On August 2, Man City will continue its tour against Olympiacos at TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota. And of course, the Miami final on August 4 looms should Man City make it that far.
While Man City does indeed have its own American following and will draw a crowd at all of these remaining matches, its biggest moment on U.S. soil to date was probably in the Milan match. For those who don’t remember, that’s when AC Milan star Mario Balotelli stopped play to pose for a photo with fans who’d rushed the field. This isn’t to say a photo opportunity outweighs actual football, but it’s nice for American fans to get a taste of Balotelli’s infamous antics!
All in all, it has been and should continue to be a great American tour for some of the EPL’s very best clubs!