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SOCCER

Could a UEFA Champions League final be played in the US?

Key actors on both sides of the pond are keen on taking a UEFA Champions League final to the United States, the world’s most lucrative market.

Update:
Key actors on both sides of the pond are keen on taking a UEFA Champions League final to the United States, the world’s most lucrative market.
Jonathan MoscropDiarioAS

The US commercial and television market carries more clout than any other in the world at the moment, which is why major soccer competitions around the globe are falling over each other to get their piece of the American pie. More and more elite finals and tournaments are being played in the States.

UEFA, ECA in favour of US Champions League final

However, the US is yet to snare the planet’s biggest club game: the UEFA Champions League final. European soccer’s showpiece event has never left the Old Continent - and the process of taking it to a venue elsewhere in the world would be far from straightforward. The financial incentives are such, though, that European clubs and UEFA, the continent’s governing body, are open to the possibility. The European Club Association, which holds its general assembly in Istanbul next week, is in favour of expanding its market - a move that would multiply TV and sponsorship revenue.

When it comes to broadcasting income, UEFA has just sold its English-language US Champions League rights to CBS, Viacom and Paramount for $1.5 billion, in a six-year deal starting in 2024. It’s a deal the organisation is very happy with, and one that was boosted by the expansion of the tournament’s format from the 2024/25 season. The strong presence that UEFA’s sales partner, Relevent Group, has established in the US market offers the European body a firm platform on which to secure lucrative agreements. Relevent was responsible for organising the hugely successful International Champions Cup, a summer tournament held in the US until a few years ago.

Confidence in the US over Champions League final prospects

America’s chief promoters are optimistic that a Champions League final will be held on American soil. They believe they’re ready to stage the event. The Campeones Cup, a fixture organised by the US’ elite soccer league, Major League Soccer, is evidence of this. Held annually since 2018, the game pits the champions of MLS against the winners of Mexico’s Liga MX, and its most recent edition, played at New York’s Yankee Stadium in front of 15,000 fans on Wednesday, was an immense success. On an organisational level, the event was reminiscent of a major European final. On top of their sporting expertise, Americans are past masters at putting on a show.

US a World Cup host, could also get Club World Cup

FIFA, the organisation in charge of governing soccer worldwide, is well aware of that. The 2026 World Cup is to be held in the US - albeit the country is to share the hosting rights with Canada and Mexico - and the next FIFA Club World Cup, whose major draw is the involvement of Champions League holders Real Madrid, could be played in America, too. In recent years, other international tournaments have also been staged in the US, such as South America’s Copa América and CONCACAF’s Gold Cup.

The rise of soccer in the States has been driven not only by the country’s significant Latino population, but also by a series of measures imposed by organisers and institutions. The construction of several top-level soccer stadiums is the latest focus of the drive, leaving 22 of the 28 clubs in MLS with soccer-specific stadiums that are not, as has often been the case, repurposed from other sports. Most notably, Manchester City offshoot New York City FC have had to share Yankee Stadium with MLB giants the New York Yankees. The US has everything except one thing: the Champions League. That’s its objective.

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