The Premier League Summer Series brings six teams on an east coast US tour to compete in a total of nine friendlies. These friendlies come up and down the east coast at five different venues. That includes Atlanta, Philadelphia, Orlando and just outside of New York City and the country’s capital. However, the six teams are not the traditional ‘big six’ of the Premier League.
Chelsea is one of these clubs, and they fit that billing. However, the other five are Aston Villa, Brentford, Brighton and Hove Albion, Fulham and Newcastle. While these clubs may not have the popularity of those international brands, they have the performances. These are all top-half teams in this season’s Premier League. The only team of the six that is outside the top 10 is, ironically, Chelsea.
The six teams create an interesting opportunity and test for the Premier League. Always looking to grow its international brand, the Premier League sending over this cohort of teams for its first league-sponsored summer event sends a message that it wants to be more than just a league known by a handful of teams.
Yet, this does mean it misses out on the massive fame and acclaim of clubs such as Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur. Success is relative without these clubs, and here is what that may look like this summer.
Attendance at Premier League US tour faces test
The major takeaway from the Premier League Summer Series is the fact that the majority of games are happening at NFL stadiums. Contests in Philadelphia, Atlanta and Landover are at stadiums with capacities exceeding 67,000 fans. It would be no surprise to see Manchester United against Arsenal sell that game out. In fact, those two clubs have a friendly at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, which is all but assured to be a sell-out.
However, Brentford plays Brighton at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which has a capacity of over 70,000. Aston Villa faces Fulham at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles. That stadium is also bigger than most soccer stadiums in Europe.
The threat the Premier League faces is empty seats. It would not be a great look if Brentford, Brighton, Aston Villa or Fulham played in front of a few thousand fans in these cathedrals of American sport.
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This is no slight to the clubs, themselves. Their play on the field is clearly good enough to get into elite competition and Europe, usurping traditional clubs. Newcastle, in particular, is on a course for a top three finish under its new ownership.
However, it takes time to grow a fan base. Some of the games are in soccer-specific venues. Orlando City’s Exploria Stadium and Red Bull Arena, home of the New York Red Bulls, host games. These are arguably better suited to welcome clubs making their first stops on an international circuit in the United States. The number of fans could be similar between the two venues, but one will certainly paint a better picture with more crowded stands.
Competing against other teams
Even though other top English clubs such as Manchester United or Arsenal are not part of the Premier League US tour, they are still coming to the United States. In addition, Arsenal is playing in the MLS All-Star Game at the home of DC United. Manchester United has three other friendlies. One is against Wrexham in San Diego. The next is against Borussia Dortmund in Las Vegas. A final one is still up in the air.
Yet, that friendly between Arsenal and Manchester United directly overlaps with one of the matchups. As part of the schedule of soccer friendlies in the USA this summer, on July 22, the two historic clubs in England play at the same time as the first game in the Summer Series, Chelsea against Brighton in Philadelphia. If the Summer Series cannot break through with one of its bigger teams, it could struggle to connect with audiences.
Manchester United’s friendly against Dortmund is also on the same day as a pair of Summer Series games. Can that take away some of the intrigue for the Premier League-specific games that day? There is an American-infused tie between Chelsea against Fulham and the Aston Villa game against Brentford.
If the tournament is successful, and the Premier League can get fans in the seats and watching on NBC’s channels, it could be the start of a trend for the league. However, if it turns out fans only care about those popular clubs for summer tours, it could be a failed trial.
PHOTO: IMAGO / News Images
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Courtesy : https://worldsoccertalk.com/news/premier-league-us-tour-success-dependent-on-smaller-clubs-20230430-WST-430879.html