How the Stateside Preseason Tour Became Ubiquitous Among Europe’s Top Clubs

Every summer, prior to the start of a new season, Europe’s top clubs take a tour around the world, in part for players to prepare for the upcoming campaign against different competition, but mostly to market themselves to international audiences. The United States has become an increasingly popular destination, and we take a look into the origins of the trend, and how it’s significantly grown over the past decade. 

As we quickly approach the end of the season, pretty much all of Europe’s giants have already announced the dates for their 2024-25 preseason tours. For many of these major clubs, itineraries will include stops in the United States.

It’s certainly not the most important part of the schedule for most football fans, but it is the best, and sometimes the only opportunity for millions of Stateside supporters to see their favorite teams and players live. It’s a trend that has gained popularity as the sport has grown commercially throughout the 2010s and ’20s.

Even with the Premier League’s hugely successful Summer Series from last year called off, there will still be a plethora of games and teams that United States-based football fans will be able to see come July. Opportunities like this were very few and far between just a decade ago.

The Evolution

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(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

In 2013, the then-named Guinness International Champions Cup was launched by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and his media group Relevant Sports. The first edition featured some big names, including Real Madrid, Chelsea, and Juventus, and made stops across six U.S. cities. The final was won by Real Madrid, led by a soon-to-be-named 2013 Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, in front of a crowd of 67,000.

The tournament was a massive success in its inaugural year, and was subsequently expanded in 2014 to 13 cities. This coincided with the addition of Manchester United, one of the most recognizable brands in world sport; and led to a record-breaking crowd of 109,318 fans at the University of Michigan’s Big House to watch Manchester United play Real Madrid in the highest-attended soccer match in U.S. history.

This showed, if nothing else, the insatiable desire that there was in the U.S. for more of the beautiful game, and in particular, more of these mega-clashes of Europe’s elite.

Recent Preseason Cups

While the men’s edition of the International Champions Cup would cease operations in 2020 (the women’s tournament is still ongoing), Relevant Sports Group would continue its venture of bringing European giants to the United States.

In 2023, the group introduced the Premier League Summer Series. It was the first preseason tournament organized and held by the league on American soil, with the EPL’s previous tours taking place across Asia.

The Summer Series went over extremely well with fans at the stadiums and those that tuned in across the world. What made this a bigger deal was the fact that the lineup included only one of the traditional “big six” teams, Chelsea. Yet, even with teams that some thought casual fans would care little about, the games were a hit.

It wasn’t just for England though. Relevant Sports launched the La Liga Summer Tour concurrently, which was headlined by Atletico Madrid as an effort to grow the league’s profile in North America. The games were played across the U.S. and Mexico and the tournament was put on as a building block with one eye toward the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

From the International Champions’ Cup to the Premier League and La Liga Tours, Ross and Relevant Sports have been arguably the biggest driving force behind the growth of summertime football in North America over the last decade.

The Soccer Champions Tour was also revamped in 2023 and saw a seven-match series that featured Man United, Juventus, AC Milan, and Arsenal. The two biggest draws though, were Real Madrid and Barcelona, who were booked to face off in a rare El Clasico not played on Spanish soil. The game drew over 80,000 fans.

Continued Growth of Footy in the U.S.

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The 2024-25 season will be upon us before we know it, and the giants of Europe show no signs of shying away from the warm weather summer preparation.

Despite the Premier League Summer Series not returning this year due to planning issues, it is set to make a comeback in 2025 according to reports. The Soccer Champions Tour will be back this summer featuring five European giants facing off across six stadiums, with tickets already on sale.

The 2026 World Cup is coming at the perfect time for North America from a commercial perspective. The U.S. continues to be the premier and ideal spot for most of Europe’s big boys to have their preparations for fresh seasons. TV deals continue to roll in for U.S. outlets to broadcast the world’s biggest leagues, and the arrival of Lionel Messi to MLS continues to raise the profile of domestic football with each kick of his magic left foot.

Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Aston Villa, and both Manchester clubs have already confirmed that their preseason tours will make Stateside stops, and eager fans of the Premier League will no doubt sell out more than a few of these games. Throw in Real Madrid, Barcelona, and AC Milan, and it looks set to be yet another star-studded summer in the States.

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