As we have the day off from our usual habit of Premier League matches today I thought it would be interesting to look at where The Premier League clubs who will wrap up the final match day of the season tomorrow will be going to begin preparations for the start of the 2013/14 season once their vacations are over, assuming some players are even given vacations (That’s a nod to you Mr DiCanio as well as the Confederations cup).
Pre-season preparations for clubs have come a very long way from being simply warm-up matches at lower league or non-league clubs to sort of beat up on to get the kinks out before heading into the new season. As it has been well documented, Clubs have been using the pre-season as a way to both earn extra income as well as expand the fan base of their club in areas of potential growth by scheduling high profile friendlies in those areas and potentially activating localized and targeted sponsorship deals set up exactly for this purpose.
Up until last year ago the target region for expansion had been the United States. Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City had all competed in the now re-named World Football Challenge, Everton had done multiple US tours joining Chelsea, Fulham, West Ham on the list of MLS All star opponents with Manchester United soon to follow. For a good while the United States was the prime-time pre-season destination for clubs as they recognized the burgeoning soccer fan base and potential club-less fans whom they could convert.
The United States though is not the only area where clubs are looking to expand though. Beyond United States tours, Clubs have begun to almost switch back and forth summer after summer between North America and the other ever expanding fan base developing in Asia. Many clubs have begun signing region specific sponsorship deals to further local brand recognition such as Chelsea’s deals with the Thai beer Singha Beer and Myanmar’s Grand Royal Whiskey brand. Not to be outdone of course, Manchester United maintains matching competitive partnerships as far down as having an official noodle partner and even a savory snack partner.
Last summer the United States were graced with Chelsea FC, Tottenham Hotspur, Aston Villa, Liverpool, Stoke City and even Swansea City pre-season schedules. This summer will be quite different though. Manchester United will follow up its single visit to Shanghai lat year, with a full 5 game series in Asia, starting in Bangkok and by the end will have played games in Sydney, Yokohama, Osaka and Hong Kong.
Chelsea similarly follows suit with a match in Bangkok against a Singha All star team to celebrate Singha’s 80th anniversary. Chelsea though will stay in south east Asia with a further two games in Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta. Chelsea’s north London rivals Arsenal will begin similarly in Indonesia but, fittingly, will move north for a match in Hanoi, Vietnam before heading for two more matches in Japan.
Tottenham, Sunderland and Manchester City are all scheduled to compete in the Barclay’s Asia Trophy tournament to be held in Hong Kong. The tournament is a four team competition last won by Chelsea and will be filled out with South China as the fourth participant. South China previously participated in the bi-annual summer pre-season competition in 2007.
Liverpool make it the farthest south in south Asia this year with their pre-season friendly against the Melbourne Victory of the Hyundai A-League in Australia. This match is sandwiched between trips to Jakarta and Bangkok against and Indonesian XI and Thai XI respectively. Capital One Cup holders Swansea City were set to make it the farther north with a three match tour of South Korea but recent political and military tensions in the region may potentially derail that plan it remains to be seen.
Not every Premier League team is heading east this summer though. Newcastle and Everton look set to participate in a South African set of matches that seem them play each other as well as Ajax Cape Town. US fans shouldn’t be too down-trodden either. Manchester City and Chelsea both are making unprecedented friendlies against each other in St Louis and New York immediately following the end of the Premier League season on May 23rd and May 25th. Beyond that, Stoke City plans on continuing with a second tour of the US, primarily in Texas with Norwich City planning a thee game west coast adventure against MLS competition starting in Sacramento, then San Jose and finally ending in Portland.
The United States isn’t being completely ignored this summer, the re-branded World Football Challenge, now known as the International Champions Cup is still happening this year and with some very high profile teams. The new tournament now includes eight teams instead of four with one game being played in Europe. Participants this year include Italian champions Juventus, La Liga powerhouse Real Madrid, The LA Galaxy and Inter Milan. The other four teams were supposed to have been announced on the official website on May 7th but the other four slots, supposedly “marquee international clubs” according to the Guiness sponsored tournament’s website, are yet to be announced.
Needless to say this summer will not be without its Premier League participants. Although many wont be in the US like last year, some will still be, among some other fairly and comparably large teams. Beyond that, the MLS All-Star opponents are yet to be announced as well. Summer 2013 will surely be entertaining if not viewed somewhat early with the Asian time difference. And for anyone fretting about the lack of quality opposition, dont forget the FIFA Confederations Cup is being held in June, the month before all these friendlies take place and with teams like Brazil and Spain participating, a fan is always likely to be entertained. Enjoy