FIFA will explore the potential impact of allowing domestic leagues to play foreign competitive games in the near future, which has major consequences on MLS and its popularity in the USA. It was revealed in April that soccer’s governing body would consider changing a policy that blocks league games from being scheduled in other countries. The move followed FIFA’s settlement with Relevent Sports Group during an ongoing court case.

The deal between the promotors and the governing body opened the door for top European league matches to be played here in the United States. This could include LaLiga or Premier League fixtures. Relevent, an American sports media company, previously attempted to bring a Spanish top-flight match to the States in 2018. LaLiga president Javier Tebas remains adamant that regular season Spanish league games will come to America by 2026.

FIFA is now amping up efforts for these European games to be played abroad by setting up an official committee. The committee will compile information on both the effects on the leagues and the potential host countries. The group will then pass on their official recommendations regarding the issue to the governing body.

MLS already fighting against foreign games and popularity in USA

While there is still work to do, FIFA’s move to even set up the committee is telling. The decision by the organization is the first step in allowing foreign teams to play official games in the United States. It now seems more than likely that official European matches will come Stateside at some point.

Allowing these top games in America would, however, affect Major League Soccer. Foreign leagues such as the Premier League already take a huge amount of interest away from MLS. The English top flight is currently the most popular soccer league on TV here in the States. Viewership of the Premier League in America is also still rising. Apple’s deal with MLS, on the other hand, has not been able to make a significant dent in the English division’s broadcasting dominance.

Although MLS has fallen further behind in TV viewership ratings, the division has been able to make up ground on ticket sales. Lionel Messi’s arrival in the league fueled this drive to attend games, often at major NFL stadiums. Nevertheless, foreign leagues potentially scheduling regular season matches in the States will surely steal people away from MLS stadiums. Many fans will want to take advantage of a rare chance to see big European league games close to home.

LaLiga could gain on Premier League by holding regular season games in the US

Premier League officials, however, are seemingly less willing to schedule top-flight games in the United States. This could certainly change in the future, but English officials claim that there are no current plans to play regular season fixtures outside of the country. After all, playing league games in a foreign country takes away the significance of home-field advantage.

Assuming this stance continues, other top European leagues could very well capitalize on this resistance to play games across the pond. Being more readily accessible would give divisions, such as LaLiga, a fairly considerable advantage. Big European leagues have been looking for ways to make a dent in the Premier League’s foreign dominance for years. Playing Stateside could give these divisions a much-needed boost.

With news of the FIFA committee, many foreign clubs and leagues are likely already thinking of ways to play in America. However, the sheer impact of hosting foreign matches Stateside ultimately depends on the scheduling. Having one or two foreign games each year in America will likely not affect MLS drastically. A larger scale of fixtures, however, may become extremely detrimental to the North American division.



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