While Premier League clubs have been staging summer friendlies in the United States for years, the league itself this past summer for the first time decided to officially organize a series of exhibitions featuring six clubs throughout the East Coast.
As Akash Jain, managing director of the Premier League’s U.S. office, got off the train in Philadelphia for the opening weekend of games, “the first thing I see is a family of four all in Chelsea jerseys.”
With the 2026 FIFA World Cup heading to North America, the importance for clubs and leagues throughout Europe to increase their U.S. presence was one of the themes at this year’s Soccerex, an annual international gathering for the sport. Jain was one of four panelists with European ties to discuss the importance at “Brand Building in the Americas.”
Nearly every major European league now has an office in the New York area along with multiple clubs having individual outposts. Bundesliga giant Bayern Munich was the first overseas club to open a U.S. office, starting in 2014.
“If you’re not here, you don’t get a feel for what resonates,” said Dee Kundra, managing director of the Americas for Bayern Munich. “It’s difficult to do that from a different country. We’re all here to grow our brands. That means we have to take care of our existing fan base of course, but we want to get in front of new fans.”
Another crucial branding opportunity has been the growth of U.S. television and streaming. The Premier League has its massive deal with NBC while Italy’s Serie A is on Paramount Plus. ESPN Plus is the home for every Bundesliga game along with Spain’s La Liga, with both leagues also having a presence on ESPN and ABC broadcast channels as well.
“Any market that you go into, you need to understand the dynamics of that market, the consumers, the characteristics of that market,” Jain said. “Partnerships are absolutely critical. That starts with NBC for the Premier League. They understand sports in the U.S., they understand sports fans and consumers. They’ve done a tremendous job of bringing our content and different experiences to fans.”
“If people cannot watch your games or it’s hard to find your games on TV, you are going to struggle,” said Nicholas Garcia, La Liga vice president for strategy and business development. “Having all 380 games on ESPN Plus and some games on ABC, we are super-serving the fans no matter where they’re at.”
Serie A’s ever-increasing presence in the United States was turbocharged this summer when U.S. national team star Christian Pulisic moved to AC Milan, one of Italy’s historic giants. While the move of Pulisic and fellow USMNT regular Yunus Musah were for sporting reasons, its impact allows Andy Mitchell, managing director for Serie A in the United States, to set a goal “to be the most important and biggest league in continental Europe by the time the World Cup comes.”
Since Pulisic moved to AC Milan, the club has seen its video views online already surpass all of last season with more single-ticket sales and hospitality purchases from the United States than ever before, said AC Milan Chief Marketing Officer Tania Moreno, who is also able to draw on a commercial partnership the club has with the New York Yankees.
“Having deep expertise in the U.S. market is crucial to success,” Moreno said, adding the club will soon establish an academy in the Northern Virginia area for boys and girls ages 5–17. “You have two of the most iconic sports brands coming together to leverage each other’s brand equity to reach a global audience.”
Further Boosting Miami’s Profile
It was the third time Miami has hosted Soccerex, which this year had delegates from over 70 countries and nearly 2,000 attendees.
“For us, the American market is one of our target markets,” said Lulu He, Ajax manager of global football partnerships. “It’s nice to reconnect with everyone and especially in the U.S. We have for Ajax some projects in Mexico and Brazil as well, so it’s good for us to see what’s going on in this market and connect with people.”
Miami is one of 11 U.S. cities that will host games in the 2026 FIFA World Cup and it is the home for FIFA’s 2026 headquarters. Lionel Messi’s joining Inter Miami gave the club a massive jolt of international branding, which is saying something when you already have David Beckham in the ownership group.
“What you see is a center of gravity for soccer moving to Miami from the world,” Mayor Francis Suarez said.
The city’s international reach — it is one of the leading U.S. airports when it comes to foreign travelers — extends in the region. The Argentina Football Federation is planning to break ground on a U.S. headquarters with office space for operations and a training facility in North Bay Village in the middle of Biscayne Bay, situated between Miami and Miami Beach.
“Miami tends to be a harbinger of what’s to come in the United States and I know soccer is the preeminent sport in Miami,” said North Bay Village Mayor Brent Latham, a former head of media at Concacaf.
Miami is also where La Liga has for years wanted to be able to hold an official league game, a desire that has been held up in the U.S. judicial system.
“I feel if it’s done in a way that is well thought in the strategy and is not a one-off, it could make sense,” Garcia said. “We just see the success of the NBA and NFL have had with its international games. We are still working on it; it is a work in progress. Bringing over a game that matters is part of a holistic strategy that will have value.”