In a tectonic shift for the world of international soccer, LaLiga announced Thursday morning that it intends to bring league matches to North America as part of “LaLiga North America,” a partnership between the league and the Miami-based Relevant Sports. While no announcements of specific cities has been made, it’s virtually a certainty that Miami will host some of these games.
While friendlies involving Spanish clubs have become a familiar fixture in the American soccer calendar, and an idea like this has been proposed before (The Premier League’s Game39 was widely debated more than a decade ago), it will be the first time a major European league brings competitive matches to North America.
“This extraordinary joint venture is the next giant leap in growing soccer’s popularity in North America,” said Stephen Ross, chairman and owner of Relevent (and owner of the Miami Dolphins and their venue, Hard Rock Stadium). “This unique relationship will create new opportunities for millions of North American soccer fans to experience the most passionate, exciting, and highest level of soccer in the world.”
The operation will be overseen by a new company, LaLiga North America, which will be responsible not only for the league game but for youth academies, development of youth soccer coaches, marketing agreements, consumer activations and exhibition matches. LaLiga North America will be based in New York, but is led by Chief Executive Officer Boris Gartner, who as of last month was based in Miami.
LaLiga already has a presence in Miami, as it routinely participates in the International Champions Cup (also overseen by Relevant Sports). Just last month, Real Madrid faced Manchester United at Hard Rock Stadium. But an actual league game involving a team like Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid or Barcelona would assuredly pack the stadium.
“This ground-breaking agreement is certain to give a major impulse to the popularity of the beautiful game in the U.S. and Canada,” LaLiga president Javier Tebas said in a statement. “Relevent has filled stadiums across the U.S. with the International Champions Cup, we’re thrilled to partner with them on a joint mission to grow soccer in North America.”