SBJ/20100329/This Week's News

CAA and SUM partner to get U.S. ManU tour

A year after running competing soccer tours in the U.S., CAA Sports and Soccer United Marketing are partnering in an effort to bring the world’s biggest club — Manchester United — to North America this summer.

The two sports marketing companies are attempting to bring Manchester United over for what would be a multi-city tour that would be headlined by the MLS All-Star Game at Houston’s Reliant Stadium. Sources familiar with the deal say Manchester United tentatively agreed to a four-stop tour that also would include Boston, Philadelphia and Toronto.

Terms of the agreement between CAA and SUM were not available. Both organizations declined to comment.

Manchester United last toured the U.S. in 2004 as part of the Champions World Series, which also featured Celtic, Liverpool, AC Milan and others. The club brought mostly reserve and youth players for exhibition games that year in Chicago, New York and Philadelphia. Average attendance over the three games was 62,684.

If the club returns this summer, it’s unlikely that it will bring its first team and star players like English forward Wayne Rooney and Brazilian midfielder Anderson because many of those players will have World Cup commitments. Even without its biggest stars, though, the Glazer-owned soccer club has the power to draw spectators.

“Manchester United is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, brands on the planet,” said John Guppy, founder of Gilt Edge Soccer Marketing. “It’s a challenging year with player availability after the World Cup and it remains to be seen what squad they will bring over, but it’s still exciting that they want to come back to the U.S. market.”

The partnership CAA and SUM established in an effort to bring Manchester United to the U.S. marks the first time the two organizations have worked together since competing against each other last summer.

In 2009, CAA organized a six-game exhibition tour featuring AC Milan, Inter Milan, Chelsea FC and Club America. The CAA tour, which was known as the World Football Challenge, posed a threat to SUM’s position as the exclusive event marketer and organizer for U.S. soccer tours. It also threatened to detract from SUM’s 2009 soccer events, the Gold Cup and an FC Barcelona tour.

Ultimately, both groups were able to pull off their respective events without damaging each other, leading soccer stakeholders to name last year “The Summer of Soccer.” CAA’s World Football Challenge averaged 56,136 spectators over six games and 152,000 Hispanic households on ESPN Deportes for six matches. Meanwhile, the Gold Cup final drew close to 80,000 fans at Meadowlands Stadium, following a quarterfinal doubleheader at Cowboys Stadium that attracted 85,000. FC Barcelona drew a crowd of 61,572 fans for a game against Chivas de Guadalajara at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park.

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