This week has brought news that Newcastle United will be playing three pre-season friendlies in the USA.
The matches will be played against United Soccer League teams Portland Timbers (2) and Sacramento Republic, as well as Club Atlas from the Mexican League.
The dates are as follows:
Tue 14 July Club Atlas (Mexico)
(Played at Miller Park, home of Milwaukee Brewers baseball team)
Sat 18 July Sacramento Republic FC
Tue 21 July Portland Timbers (2)
When the club announced the tour, this is part of what Lee Charnley had to say in the Newcastle United press release:
“It will also enable us to build on last year’s successful tour of New Zealand; helping us develop and strengthen the Newcastle United brand internationally and reach new audiences as we seek to increase our global fan base.
“The US is a key territory for the Premier League and the huge increase in the numbers of US viewers watching Premier League games over the last couple of seasons mean this is a perfect time for us to head across the Atlantic.”
The NUFC Managing Director is indeed correct, when he says the US is finding the Premier League increasingly popular and it is an area of the world where commercial and other opportunities abound, especially since last season saw English matches now beamed out free to view in America. Plus of course the MLS is also getting more popular and stronger, so travelling over to play clubs from the MLS, or glamour friendlies in the States makes a lot of sense but…
Newcastle aren’t actually playing any MLS outfits.
Sacramento play in the USL (United Soccer League), which is effectively the third tier of football (soccer) in America.
Portland Timbers ARE an MLS team but that isn’t who we are playing, we are playing against their reserve/second team, who also play in that third tier (USL) of football in the States. Our match falls in between MLS matches on either weekend for Portland Timbers, though they have pledged to feature at least some players from the first team.
The other match is against Mexican side Atlas FC, who have just finished fourth in their Winter League (they have two shorter leagues each year, one starting in winter and then a summer one after a break).
Whilst that match is being staged in an area with a big Mexican-American community which should help the numbers going through the turnstiles, it must be doubtful exactly how much attention the game will get outside of that.
Lee Charnley says this will help build on the success of the New Zealand trip which according to him, helped develop NUFC as an international brand and increased the global fanbase.
Of course it was great for our ex-pats/local fans living out in New Zealand, no arguments there, but I would like Lee Charnley to explain how it developed NUFC as an international brand or significantly increased the global fanbase. Were any commercial deals struck on the back of that tour….well we weren’t told about them if there was. Though we did find out in advance of that trip that Sports Direct were expanding in that area of the globe.
As for this time around. Playing against two US teams from the third tier and a Mexican club…it hardly sounds like a trip planned well in advance to get the very best opportunities to significantly increase the global fanbase or our ‘international brand’.
Once again, brilliant for our fans over in the States who can get to see the team play live in their own backyard, but surely it is a joke to try and package it up as Newcastle United suddenly making major inroads as an international brand or grabbing a big chunk of global fanbase.