Borussia Dortmund is currently playing friendlies in the USA, half the Premier League and other top European clubs are also on the road – all with the same goal: attracting fans who want to spend money on football.
For the Borussia Dortmund team, the summer break brought in more air miles than some seasons in the Champions League. BVB began its US tour on July 27 in the southwest in San Diego. There Dortmund played a friendly against San Diego Loyal and won 6-0. On July 31, BVB played in Las Vegas, where they defeated Manchester United 3-2. On the night of Thursday, August 3rd, the Black and Yellows in the north of the USA played 1-1 against Chelsea in Chicago – almost 50,000 people came.
There is a reason for all the effort: Borussia Dortmund is hoping for the attention of American fans and ultimately for income from the USA. In 2026 the men’s World Cup will be held in the USA, Mexico and Canada. This is one of the reasons why European professional football does not expect greater revenue opportunities from any other region in the world.
Summer 2023: Hardly any Bundesliga club on a marketing tour
The Bundesliga has been complaining for years that it doesn’t earn enough money from foreign marketing. It is currently around 170 million euros per season for the DFL. “If we want to increase our foreign revenue sustainably and to a significant extent, then we can’t avoid showing our presence,” said DFL supervisory board member Hans-Joachim Watzke in “Kicker” in 2022: “Thinking it through to the end means that from next Actually every Bundesliga club and numerous second division clubs are invited to simply go out to the core markets.”
BVB’s Salih Özcan against Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes in Las Vegas
In addition to Asia, these are now mainly the USA. During the World Cup break in 2022, for example, 1. FC Köln, VfB Stuttgart and Hamburger SV played in the USA, and in the summer of 2022 Bayern Munich and SC Paderborn were there – there are also experiments funded by the DFL with money, enthusiasm to wake up for German football. Watzke’s appeal was heard in many other places, at least this summer. Most of the Bundesliga is in Austria for preparation, with some clubs staying in Germany. Bayern are on a tour of Asia, while otherwise only 1. FC Kaiserslautern and BVB travel through the United States.
Financially, something like this initially primarily benefits the larger clubs. “As far as our international marketing perspective is concerned, we have a realistic assessment,” said Cologne’s Christian Keller in the Express after FC’s trip. “It was all about learning.” Elsewhere there is less restraint, the American market is competitive in professional sports. Formula 1 recently pushed its US business forward. And in other European football leagues, clubs jostle for attention from fans in the United States.
Manchester United fans in Las Vegas during the game against Dortmund
Numerous clubs from England, Italy and Spain traveling in the USA
The Premier League is on a US tour for a large part. It held an official competition and called it the “Premier League Summer Series”. Chelsea FC, Fulham FC, Brighton & Hove Albion FC, Brentford FC, Aston Villa and Newcastle United played nine games in five stadiums across the USA and also gave Chelsea a trophy for overall victory. Other top English clubs such as Manchester United or Arsenal played several games in the USA during the summer break.
Elsewhere in Europe, too, the US has become the major target for marketing. With Juventus Turin, FC Barcelona, AC Milan and Real Madrid, four top clubs from Spain and Italy are organizing the “Soccer Champions Tour” with eight games in California, Texas, Nevada and Florida. Spain’s La Liga traveled with Atletico Madrid, Sevilla FC, Betis Sevilla and Real Sociedad for a “La Liga Summer Tour” in the USA and Mexico. “We believe that through these games we can foster deeper connections with our fans in Mexico and the United States,” said a league representative.
All these clubs are united by the hope that new fans will become enthusiastic about the clubs and later spend money on TV subscriptions or become interesting for advertisers.
The Rose Bowl Stadium in California during the friendly match between AC Milan and Real Madrid
Hardly any club relies as much on the USA as AC Milan
With Bayern Munich, Liverpool FC and Manchester City touring Asia in the hunt for new fans and more money this summer break, it’s clear that the USA has become the big destination for professional football. One club pulls this through particularly consistently: AC Milan.
Milan’s owners, investment firm RedBird Capital, also bought a stake in the New York Yankees. Their president now also sits on the board of the Italian club. Milan has become a permanent presence in the United States. Club memorabilia are sold at Yankees Stadium and the club’s games are shown on a Yankees channel. Milan also signed ex-Dortmunder Christian Pulisic. He is sportingly valuable – but as a national player in the USA it is also important for a connection there.
Christian Pulisic from AC Milan
Milan made it clear what is at stake. The collaboration should take Milan “to new heights on the road to growth,” it said in a statement. And the club has long been flirting with crossing a red line for many active fan scenes: A mandatory game in the USA is considered an express wish. Managing director Giorgio Furlani said at CBS: “If it were up to me, we would even host an official game in the USA.”
FIFA and UEFA are also hoping for more money from the United States
With the 2026 World Cup in mind, it’s clear that the fight for American money is in full swing. The associations have also recognized the financial potential. The DFB plays with the national team in October in Hartford against the USA and in Philadelphia against Mexico. It is important “with a view to the upcoming World Cup to be present on site, to hold talks and make contacts,” said DFB director Rudi Völler.
UEFA is also hoping for new revenue. She hired the marketing agency “Relevant” solely to sell the rights for the Champions League in the USA from 2024. No other region has such a special status, all other TV rights are sold by the in-house agency “Team”. And after the men’s World Cup 2026, FIFA also awarded the Club World Cup 2025 to the USA. It will be the first Club World Cup with 32 teams, and it is also intended to strengthen the emotional bond with the USA – and thus the financial one.