Manchester United beat Real Madrid 3 – 1 last week far from either team’s home.
The final of the International Champions Cup (ICC), an exhibition competition where European teams promote ‘soccer’ in America, was attended by 109,318 in Ann Arbor Michigan making it the biggest football crowd ever in the US.
The record breaking audience goes to show that the ICC drive to increase the reputation of football in the US is working.
Despite its success, the ICC has been controversial since it was founded in 2012 by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and New York Jets executive Matt Higgins. The new group has increasingly been seen as replacing the pre-existing World Football Challenge’s structure, where European and American teams took each other on, with a more European focused competition.
Many US football fans see this as placing money and status above promotion of the game itself and cultivation of grassroots skill. However the ICC organisers, known as Relevant Sports, have signed numerous deals to promote American soccer teams on the world stage. The group has always pointed out that the number of people both playing and watching soccer in the US has increased rapidly over the last few years partly due to its own efforts.
This is just one example of a host of recent projects aimed at increasing the profile of the sport in the US, among them the transfer of high profile players such as David Beckham to US clubs for exotic fees. Whatever the motivation and means, last week’s record breaking match shows that the move toward European style football is definitely taking hold in the US.