By Clemente Lisi – New York, NY (July 21, 2014) US Soccer Players – It’s the summer soccer friendly season in North America. In what has now become an annual summer tradition, European club teams from the Premier League, Bundesliga, and other leagues are again holding preseason training in the United States and playing friendlies against each other and MLS clubs. MLS plays its part as good hosts, restructuring the league schedule to account for the friendlies and playing Bayern Munich in the 2014 MLS All-Star Game.
The preseason schedule officially got under way this past Saturday when the Seattle Sounders hosted Spurs in what ESPN play-by-play announcer Jon Champion called a “prestige friendly.” With some 55,000 fans in attendance at CenturyLink Field, the Sounders faithful were there to support their squad as well as show everyone how far soccer fandom has come in the USA.
The outcome was a very entertaining 3-3 draw between the English club, which finished sixth in thePremier League this past season, and the best team in MLS at the moment. “I think we showed that we can play at any level,” Seattle’s Osvaldo Alonso told reporters. “We’ve got good players in the team and we can play with any team in the world.”
With so many matches alongside the already busy MLS schedule, below are six preseason games you should not miss:
July 23 – Sporting Kansas City vs. Manchester City at Sporting Park in Kansas City, KS
Defending MLS Cup champions Sporting Kansas City take on Premier League club Manchester City. Like Seattle, the crowd at Sporting Park should provide a wonderful backdrop to this exhibition game.
“It is a pleasure to host a world-class club like Manchester City,” said Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes. “It will be a great event not only for our fans, but our players as well to measure ourselves against one of the best teams in all of soccer.”
July 26 – NY Red Bulls vs. Arsenal at Red Bull Arena, Harrison, NJ
As we witnessed in Seattle, it’s always fun to see how MLS teams stack up against European clubs. This game has the added bonus of featuring the Red Bulls’ Thierry Henry take on his former club. The match will be Arsenal’s only exhibition game in the US this summer and the first time the club has played on our shores since 1989. The game is also the second time the Red Bulls face Arsenal in three years. The last time was a 1-1 draw at the 2011 Emirates Cup in London.
Henry called the game “a special moment” for him, adding, “Along with my teammates, I am excited about hosting Arsenal in New York … and hope that Red Bulls and Arsenal fans will be able to enjoy the match.”
July 31 – Bayern Munich vs. CD Guadalajara at Red Bull Arena, Harrison, NJ
If you can’t catch Red Bulls vs Arsenal, here’s your chance to see a game featuring two popular teams. Bayern Munich may have formed the core of the Germany team that won the World Cup, but those players will be on vacation. Instead, the Bayern Munich team that comes to our shores this summer features French winger Franck Ribery, who missed the World Cup because of an injury. In addition, Bayern have made some changes to their roster this offseason, adding striker Robert Lewandowski (from Borussia Dortmund) and midfielder Sebastian Rode (from Eintracht Frankfurt). Both are expected to travel to the US for the start of preseason.
CD Guadalajara, meanwhile, opened the Mexican Apertura season this past weekend and will be using this friendly as the chance to test itself against top-tier talent. Given the New York-area’s large Mexican community, expect plenty of fan support for the club inside the intimate confines of Red Bull Arena.
July 30 – Manchester City vs. Liverpool at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY
This game isn’t the Premier League match-up scheduled for August 25th. Instead, it’s the chance to see these two storied clubs play each other in one of the most famous baseball stadiums in the country. The game – part of the International Champions Cup (now in its second year) – will give American fans the chance to see two Premier League sides play each other in person. Although this is a friendly without the same intensity or players we’ll see in England in a few weeks, it will be interesting to see what sort of game they play.
Not lost here is the fact that Manchester City will be playing at Yankee Stadium, the same place that will house (at least for now) NYC FC starting next season. Manchester City partly owns the MLS franchise and this game will go a long way in helping to market the game and the club to New York-area soccer fans.
Aug. 2 – Real Madrid vs. Manchester United at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, MI
It’s not every day that the European champions play in the Midwest. In a game that could very well double as a Champions League final, Real Madrid will play Manchester United at Michigan Stadium.
Known as a college town, Ann Arbor will become an international city for a weekend, drawing soccer fans from several states. The best seats are going for nearly $200, but selling for a few thousands on the secondary market. The venue is no stranger to big events, hosting the 2014 NHL Winter Classic between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings.
It’s also called “The Big House” for a reason. With an official capacity of 109,901, the game has the potential to break the US attendance record for a soccer game, which stands at 101,799. That record was set at the Rose Bowl in 1984 when France defeated Brazil in the Olympic gold medal game.
August 6 – MLS All-Stars vs. Bayern Munich at Providence Park in Portland, OR
This is one of the games MLS fans look forward to each year. The All-Star game pits the best players in the league against one of the best club teams in the world. This year, MLS will compete against the German giants in what will be a sellout crowd in Portland.
This game will be a rematch of the USA-Germany from the World Cup. In addition, Landon Donovan will play against the team where he enjoyed a loan spell. It may be an All-Star game, but it should be competitive.
When Bayern was announced last December as this year’s All-Star Game opponent, MLS Commissioner Don Garber said, “One of the great stories in Major League Soccer over the last number of years has been the enormous fan passion, civic support and stadium atmosphere in Portland. We look forward to showcasing this phenomenon to the rest of the world.”
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