Wishful thinking? La Liga plans to play league games in U.S. market

Thursday's announcement that La Liga, as part of a joint venture with Relevent, which organizes the International Champions Cup, plans on bringing Spanish league soccer to the United States raises lots of questions:

-- When will it start?
-- Which teams will play?
-- How many games will be played?
-- Where will they play?

Not to mention will U.S. Soccer, Concacaf and FIFA ever go for the idea? (We think we know what the answer to that question.)

The release calls for La Liga North America to "work to cultivate soccer culture in the U.S. and Canada" using the "unequaled assets of La Liga" and expose North America "to the unparalleled Spanish soccer culture, renowned for its passion, drama, history, flair and creativity."


 
Other leagues and clubs have made a move into the U.S. market but never with these intentions expressed by La Liga in its joint venture with Relevent, owned by Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross.

The release is phrased carefully -- La Liga's activities will include youth academies, development of youth soccer coaches, marketing agreements, consumer activations, exhibition matches but it only has "plans to have an official La Liga Santander match played in the U.S."

Those plans immediately got push-back from the Spanish players association, whose president, David Aganzo, said, "Players are not a bargaining chip that can be used in businesses that only benefit third parties."

Relevent executive chairman Charlie Stillitano, who founded the International Champions Cup and before that ChampionsWorld, whose bankruptcy ended up being a lawsuit against U.S. Soccer testing the the federation's authority to regulate the international pro soccer market, told the Washington Post that La Liga was discussing a single game, which would be played during the current season in 2019 and would involve Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Sevilla or Valencia (preferably one of the first three).

“Our goal, our job, our responsibility is to try to build La Liga,” Stillitano told the Post. “We told them, [Relevent] sees the power of regular-season games.”

No major European league or federation has held a regular-season game in North America. France's Trophée des Champions (involving the league and cup champions in a preseason match similar to England's Community Shield) has been held in New Jersey and in Montreal (as well as other locations around the world).

La Liga isn't the first league to attempt to move into the American market.

The Premier League had plans for an "international round" of games, a "Game 39" played, beginning in January 2011, over one weekend in five U.S. markets. U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said the federation would take FIFA's guidance and not sanction the games unless it got the go-ahead from FIFA.

Gulati got his answer from FIFA president Sepp Blatter: "Football cannot be like the Harlem Globetrotters or a circus."

There was no response from FIFA or U.S. Soccer to La Liga's plans on Thursday, but one source told Yahoo Sports' Doug McIntyre: “There’s no chance in hell."

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