French league eyes U.S. investors with summer tournament

The Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) confirmed plans to organize a pre-season tournament involving four teams July 15-22 at Audi Field, D.C. United's home in Washington, D.C.

Like other big five European leagues, the French league, which operates Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, has targeted the U.S. market to build its brand. But in addition to growing the U.S. fan base for Ligue 1, it wants to target potential investors in French clubs.

Two of the four clubs coming to Washington are American-owned. Former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt bought Marseille in 2016. U.S. hedge fund General American Capital Partners completed a deal to purchase Bordeaux last November.

The other clubs invited to the tournament sponsored by EA are St. Etienne and Montpellier. A deal by St. Etienne's French owners to sell Les Verts to Chicago-based PEAK6 fell through last year.

Didier Quillot, the LFP's CEO, told L'Equipe in January that LFP officials had traveled to the United States four times in 2018 to make presentations to U.S. investment banks and hedge funds.

"France is in competition with La Liga and the Premier League," Quillot said. "The investors whom we have met won't go to Germany because league rules prevent a foreigner having a majority interest in a team and they aren't interested in Italy."

The LFP's pitch includes:

1. A Ligue 1 team can be purchased for a fraction of the cost of a Premier League team;
2. Ligue 1's academies are considered the best in Europe, producing players like Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele;
3. A four-year media rights deal to take effect in 2020 will be worth $1.3 billion per season, a 60 percent increase over the current deal;
4. France is a vibrant sports country, hosting the Women's World Cup this summer, the 2023 Rugby World Cup and 2024 Summer Olympics.

In addition to the U.S. summer tournament, the Trophée des Champions -- the French Super Cup -- will be played in Shenzhen, China, for the second year in a row, a week before the start of the 2020-21 Ligue 1 season.
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