European Soccer Clubs’ Summer Tours Heat Up U.S. Fans’ Interest

On a humid Friday night in late July, more than 26,000 soccer fans packed Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.—not to watch MLS’s latest attraction, Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi, but to attend a preseason match between the English Premier League’s Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion FC.

This game was part of the Premier League Summer Series—six U.S. preseason games, organized by Stephen Ross’ Relevent Sports Group—and one of the 34 friendlies that European teams have played in the U.S. this summer. These mostly sold-out matches show American fan and business interest in global soccer is continuing its steady growth.

More from

The Premier League’s tour promoted a set of friendly matches between mid-tier clubs—including Newcastle, Fulham, Aston Villa and Brighton—in nine days across five U.S. cities. The July 23 doubleheader at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field featuring Fulham-Brentford and Newcastle-Aston Villa saw over 100,000 fans in attendance, while Newcastle vs. Chelsea in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium on July 26 had 70,789 people.

The tour’s revenue was close to $20 million, according to people familiar with the events.

Along with the Premier League Summer Series, Relevent launched LaLiga’s Summer Tour, featuring Atlético Madrid, Sevilla, Real Betis and Real Sociedad. The tour is part of the strategy of LaLiga North America, the joint venture between LaLiga and Relevent, to develop and grow the league, its clubs and competitions in North American markets.

“The United States and Mexico represent an important opportunity for LaLiga and its clubs in brand and business development, especially in the run-up to the FIFA World Cup in 2026,” said Boris Gartner, CEO of LaLiga North America.

Relevent has organized preseason friendlies in the U.S. with top global soccer clubs since 2013. “It started when Stephen Ross saw a Barcelona vs. Chivas match sell out in 24 hours at [what is now called] Hard Rock Stadium,” Danny Sillman, the CEO of Relevent, said in a video call.

“Soccer was a sport that he didn’t have previous exposure to, and he realized that it’s the one sport where Americans are clearly not the best,” Sillman said. “And he wanted to bring these iconic players and mythical-like clubs to an American audience.”

Relevent’s International Champions Cup (ICC) saw half a million attendees, with an average attendance of 42,000 people per match in 2013. In 2017, Sillman led the strategy to bring el Clásico, the famous rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid, to the U.S. for a preseason match as part of the ICC. It was the first time the two teams had played stateside, and just the second time in 100 years they had played outside of Spain. The first ever el Clásico on U.S. soil took place in Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium in front of 66,014 fans.

“There is a huge interest or appetite from American fans for European football brands,” Sillman said. “Relevent’s strategy has always been about developing IP.”

The company is transitioning from ICC to these new properties. “We believe that our in live events should build IP in partnership with the European leagues, because they are what resonate with fans,” Sillman said.

Along with Relevent, other sports entertainment companies have brought major soccer teams to the U.S. this summer.

The private equity giant Sixth Street, event promoter Legends, and sports and live entertainment company AEG created a joint venture this year to host the Soccer Champions Tour. This edition of the Soccer Champions Tour was completely independent from the tour of the same name run in previous years by AEG, which also owns MLS’ LA Galaxy.

This year’s seven-match tour featured Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan, Juventus, Arsenal and Manchester United. (Sixth Street has invested in both Real Madrid and Barcelona.) The most high-profile match of the tour was El Clásico at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. According to Sixth Street, it broke the attendance record for a Real Madrid vs. Barcelona match in the U.S. with 82,000 fans, the most ever for a club soccer match at AT&T Stadium. Wednesday night’s game between Real Madrid and Juventus, a sellout held at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, was the highest grossing soccer match in stadium history.

AEG independently organized two additional games this summer: one between Ryan Reynolds’ Wrexham AFC and the Galaxy at LA’s Dignity Health Sports Park, and a sold-out game between Manchester United and Arsenal at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

Across all nine matches, the tournament sold almost 500,000 tickets.

“I think leading into 2026, the success of this tournament marks the emergence of soccer in America,” said Tom Braun, SVP of soccer and business development of AEG Sports/LA Galaxy. “And these friendlies are just one small piece of what soccer in America is about.”

The Soccer Champions Tour is expanding next year to include top women’s clubs, and the tournament might take place in the U.S., Europe or elsewhere, according to organizers. Sixth Street has a controlling stake in new NWSL franchise Bay FC.

Best of

Click here to read the full article.


Recommended For You

About the Author: soccernews