The United States of America. It is a country of sport fans. Whenever it is casually associated with sports, images of American football and baseball come to mind. However, the popularity of "soccer" in the United States is growing rapidly and expanding. Soon, Real Madrid will travel to the United States to play a couple of preseason matches, which will kick off against the LA Galaxy on August 3rd at The Home Depot Center in Carson. The La Liga champions (gosh it's awesome to say that) will also face Juventus on August 5 at the Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas and AC Milan at the Yankee Stadium in New York on August 8 as well as play a couple other games. So I felt now would be the perfect opportunity to write about Real Madrid's interest in the United States, and the importance of such trips.
When I lived in the US four years ago and compare what I saw then to what I'm seeing while I'm on vacation here now, I've found that it is evident how much football's popularity in the United States has grown. And it's not only in MLS attendance that such growth is visible, but in daily and mundane things like seeing jerseys on the street.
One could discuss the roots of such an expansion awhile and never really come up with one cause. Instead it is a series of causes that include better accessibility through television channels primarily devoted to football, World Cup popularity, and also preseason tours much like the one Real Madrid is about to embark upon. And once hooked, Americans are extremely responsive. For example, a Barcelona friendly against the LA Galaxy in 2009 at the Rose Bowl drew a crowd of 93, 137 spectators. And after the 2010 World Cup, American interest in football has only increased. This makes it the perfect place for European teams to go to in search of fans, which has started a new trend of European giants heading to the USA and Canada in their preseason.
This year, clubs like Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham, Aston Villa, Juventus, AC Milan, and of course Real Madrid will all be traveling to North America. This will be the Whites' fourteenth trip to the United States in their history and also their fourth consecutive trip. In the last three years, not only has Real Madrid visited more, but they are also playing more games. In 2009 they played one, in 2010 two, and in 2011 three. And this trend is increasing as Real Madrid is booked to play even more matches this preseason.
Now yeah yeah yeah these statistics are great and it may seem obvious to most where Real Madrid's interest in the USA is sprouting from, but it's actually pretty cool to think about and talk about once you weigh the pros and cons. For example, such a venture is expensive and the headache of travelling such a distance (trust me, jet lag is not fun) are both cons, but I think we can almost all agree that there many more positive aspects. But my favorite part of such a visit doesn't have to do with the market accessed, nor the increased awareness nor reaching out in search of new fans. It doesn't even have to do with what Real Madrid can gain. Instead, my favorite part is simply: Real Madrid going to the United States.
A couple of days ago, I was enjoying coffee at a Starbucks and I heard a discussion about Real Madrid. I was drawn in like a moth to the flame and joined the discussion. Those American fans were so knowledgeable and passionate about the club and the sport and it got me to thinking how cool it was that Real Madrid was going tothem. During the season, the action is in Europe, from the national league to the UEFA Champions League, which not only makes one hell of a trip to actually have the opportunity to see the action live at a stadium, but also makes it a little harder to be a fan. Although I don't live in Europe, my television set is European and I watch European news, which makes me one of the many that have almost constant access to Real Madrid news and games. Not only is the time of the match more convenient, but being surrounded by an atmosphere that is passionate about football makes it really easy to be and become a football fan. I mean, I saw Lionel Messi on a KFC box. If that's not an atmosphere of football I don't know what is.
Now, fans of the USA have to go looking for it because it's not all at their fingertips. That degree of dedication is awesome. Some of the fans here are some of the most knowledgeable I've ever met and their passion for the game is almost unmatched. These people are the type of support the club needs if it is going to continue to win titles and be successful.