La Liga has reached an agreement with International Champions Cup organizer Relevent to play one regular season match in the United States, the first time Spain’s top soccer league has ever played a game outside of Europe.
While the date and location for the match are yet to be determined, it could occur as soon as the second half of the upcoming 2018-19 season.
US Exhibitions Common for La Liga Clubs
Relevent has brought some of the top La Liga clubs to America before, though only for the International Champions Cup, a series of preseason matches that take place during the summer. Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Atletico Madrid were among the 18 European sides that took part in the competition this summer, which was won by England’s Tottenham Hotspur.
But bringing a regular season match to the USA would be a much bigger step, one that could help grow La Liga’s brand in America.
“This extraordinary joint venture is the next giant leap in growing soccer’s popularity in North America,” Relevent owner and chairman Stephen Ross said in a statement. “This unique relationship will create new opportunities for millions of North American soccer fans to experience the most passionate, exciting, and highest level of soccer in the world.”
The teams that will be involved in the game are among the many details that have yet to be determined. According to Relevent executive chairman Charlie Stillitano, the match will have to feature one of the more recognizable clubs in Spain, with a strong preference for Real Madrid, Barcelona, or Atletico Madrid.
“We want to put the league’s best foot forward,” Stillitano told USA Today Sports. “La Liga’s standard of play is second to none. They believe that it is a matter of getting it out there in front of the world, and the rest will follow.”
Teams, Players Could Object to Overseas Match
Getting any team to agree to play a home game in the United States will be a serious challenge, however, and realistically, the match is not going to feature two of the title contenders squaring off in a key confrontation.
That’s only one of the many hurdles that the league and Relevent will have to overcome before a match in the US can come together. FIFA, CONCACAF, and the US Soccer Federation will all have to sign off on any match from an outside league being played in the United States, for instance.
The biggest challenge of all could come from the players. The Spanish players’ union, known as AFE, said that the league had ignored their concerns about moving a match to North America during the season.
“It commits [players] to events which only benefits La Liga, without taking into account the health of the players and the risks involved for them,” read a statement from AFE.
Speaking to ESPN FC, Stillitano said that Relevent would try to work to find a spot in the schedule that alleviated those concerns by avoiding times that were crowded by cup matches.
“We’re trying to respect the game, we are trying to respect the players,” he said. “We know it’s a new thing and obviously in Europe, outside of the Champions League, you are not travelling great distances and this would be a big trip without question.”
FC Barcelona enters the 2018-19 La Liga season as the 4/6 favorite to win the league according to William Hill, with Real Madrid (2/1) and Atletico Madrid (6/1) close behind.