… than whether the MLS could have sourced a better side.
“The fact that this will be our only fixture outside of Europe during pre-season says a lot about how we view this game.”
That’s Tottenham boss, Pochettino’s, view on them being announced as the opponents for one of the biggest events on the US soccer calendar, the All-Star Game – it’s clearly a huge coup.
And rightly so.
But the reaction to the announcement from MLS fans – after last years visit of Bayern Munich for the same game – has been soberingly flat.
And rightly so.
There are no doubt, no shortages of (stronger) opponents from Europe to take this match on in their pre-season schedule. Chelsea, Manchester United and Barcelona are in the country around the same time for the International Champions Cup (in this same competition last summer, United played Real Madrid in front of a record 109,000) and which would have allowed the All-Star game to tie in nicely.
But Tottenham got it. And they deserve credit for that.
So the debate should move on to focus on the level of play it will bring to the fans.
It has the billings of a classic.
Both Gerrard and Lampard – England’s centre middle for the better part of a decade – will have spent less than a month in the States come this match but it’s obvious that the league will get them involved (if not on merit – which they should be – they will be there from a commercial perspective to bump up interest and push viewership further). But also bearing in mind that they will be competing/ lining up in a side of Kaka, David Villa, Robbie Keane, and with stand out US players Clint Dempsey, Kyle Beckerman and Michael Bradley, this will be a very solid team to face Tottenham.
While Tottenham are often a case of “close, but no cigar” type of club, they are still a top 5/ 6 English side with a huge talent in the Premiership’s in form striker this season, Harry Kane (you have to wonder where Spurs would be without him). They are going to have their work cut out and this will be an entertaining line-up.
It helps that it’s on at the perfect time.
This game comes bang in the middle of the MLS season, which is something they are clearly happy to accommodate.
But for Europe, and the UK especially, it comes at a point when football activity is confined to the transfer market; actual play is sparse, so this game will provide welcomed coverage for hungry UK fans.
Above all though, it’s a game of growth, from afar.
The rumblings are that Tottenham snagged the match as a residual component of the 2013 deal sending Dempsey to Seattle. Very sound business from Daniel Levy – he wants the Tottenham brand to get as much visibility as it can with the groundswell around soccer continuing to explode in the US.
And it may be that the powers which be in the MLS have the same line of thought – to use this match as a game of growth beyond domestic borders.
Domestically, the MLS is booming. But it is also spreading its’ wings with robust moves to evolve its perception away from home soil with a crowd of international TV deals (http://wp.me/p5YuDy-6T).
Amongst them was the exclusive tie up with Sky Sports giving the league a “degree of legitimacy in the UK and heightened its visibility in soccer’s hottest hotbed.” (http://goo.gl/5AmZuW).
Yes, this game will mobilise the passion of the country’s growing soccer elite, but with more than 100 countries expected to broadcast the game, more significantly, this could be the start of building a following of football fans for the MLS, from outside the MLS.
Rest assured, this game will make an impression
A good one on the fans; and a welcomed one on the league’s trajectory.