Football

Destination Miami: La Liga aims to hold December league match abroad

La Liga could finally get their wish of holding a league fixture abroad. The Spanish top flight has been interested in holding a match in the United States for well over a year and it could finally be a reality.

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In September 2018, La Liga explored the idea of holding a fixture between Girona and Barcelona in Miami, Florida. The match was to be played in January 2019 but it never came to fruition.

The fixture was opposed by the Spanish Football Federation and the players’ union. It was simultaneously blocked by the United States Soccer Federation as it would take interest away from the domestic leagues in America and put the spotlight on La Liga.

Now, La Liga could get the go-ahead from the Spanish Football Federation to hold a match between Atletico Madrid and Villarreal in Miami in December. The game would take place at Miami’s NFL Hard Rock Stadium.

The company planning to host the game, Relevant, has filed a lawsuit against the USSF to prevent the American federation from blocking a fixture. La Liga has signed a 15-year deal with Relevant to promote one league game a season in the US.

La Liga still needs UEFA, USSF, and CONCACAF to agree to the game being held in America.

The problem with playing abroad

Major League Soccer is the top tier of football in the US and Canada and has been in play since 1996. The league has seen international summer-friendly tournaments take place across the US and Canada for years taking fan interest away from MLS and the American minor leagues of soccer.

While international summer friendlies have turned more eyes onto football in the US and Canada, it has shown many that there is a large gap between teams from the top leagues in Europe and North America.

If La Liga is able to hold a league match abroad, it could influence more teams to go to the US to hold fixtures. The move by La Liga is very to the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball playing league fixtures in London.

The difference between the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball playing abroad (even that it shouldn’t happen) is those leagues are (for the most part) not competing with teams from the same sport.

On 1 January 2020, Miami will get a new MLS team, Inter Miami, which is owned by former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder David Beckham. The club has been a long time coming to the city. Miami was also the home of former MLS team the Miami Fusion, who folded due to a lack of fan interest and finances in the early 2000s.

Miami and South Florida have also been home to a number of minor league teams over the years. Adding a La Liga fixture to the already crowded soccer-sphere of Florida is only going to have detrimental effects on the area. While La Liga and proponents of the league playing abroad claim it will only grow the game wherever they go, the fact is it will only help La Liga and its teams build new fans and increase profits.

Will La Liga get its game abroad as it has sought for the last few years? It has a way to go, but it most likely will get the go-ahead