Ligue 1 Clubs Hope Audi Field Tournament Boosts U.S. Interest
Four top-tier French soccer clubs are competing in the EA Ligue 1 Games preseason tournament at Audi Field this weekend, part of French Professional Football League (LFP) General Dir Didier Quillot's "quest to lure U.S. investors to French clubs as well as an attempt to expand interest in the league outside of France," according to Matthew Gutierrez of the WASHINGTON POST. Ligue 1, "thought to be the fifth-best circuit in Europe," kicks off its season the weekend of Aug. 9-11. While the league is trying to "expand its brand," Audi Field was "mostly empty Thursday night" for the first two games, as Saint-Etienne beat Montpellier 4-2 and Marseille topped Bordeaux 2-1. Bordeaux President Joseph DaGrosa said, "We understand the need to build both the league's brand here in the U.S. and specifically Bordeaux's brand here." Some of Europe's "top men's club teams have been making" preseason trips to the U.S. for years, with the EPL and LaLiga at the "top of the list." In the coming years, DaGrosa "hopes France's top circuit can join that mix and attract more fans on this side of the Atlantic" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/19).
THE GLOBAL GAME: EA and the LFP are covering the costs of the clubs' trips to the U.S. An LFP spokesperson said, "International development is a key priority for Ligue 1. Two territories are our priority, Asia and North America." The spokesperson added that LFP signed a three-year deal with EA to hold preseason tourneys in the U.S., but both parties will analyze the event's success after this first edition. The LFP's Trophee Des Champions, an annual match between the Ligue 1 and Coupe de France champions, will be held Aug. 3 in Shenzhen, China. The spokesperson said that the Trophee des Champions and EA Ligue 1 Games could be combined in some way next summer, possibly in the U.S., but there are no formal plans yet (Bret McCormick, THE DAILY).