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When, if ever, will we see European football leagues play regular season matches overseas?

We are by now quite used to seeing the NFL and NBA playing regular season games on European soil, and the MLB last year played its first regular season games outside of the US when the Boston Red Sox played two games against the New York Yankees in London. For these leagues, the playing of meaningful matches overseas to promote themselves and expand their fanbases internationally is a well established tactic.

You might have thought then that it would be straightforward for the major European football leagues to do the same thing. You would be wrong! 

It was way back in 2008 that then Premier League chairman Richard Scudamore mooted a 39th game, to be played overseas. While it hasn’t completely gone away, the idea has never quite taken off. It seems the appetite for it has never reached the level required to overcome the various obstacles that stand in the way.

In 2018, LaLiga signed a deal with Relevent Sports to host LaLiga matches in the US and Canada. Despite the efforts of LaLiga and Relevent, it has not proved possible to get the necessary buy in from the various stakeholders including the clubs themselves, the United States Soccer Federation which must sanction the matches and the RFEF, Spain’s national football association.

Relevent even went so far as suing the United States Soccer Federation for anti-trust violations in refusing to sanction the games, but a US district judge has just dismissed the claim. Relevant can amend their lawsuit but the odds look stacked against them right now.

It seems that the big European leagues will have to embark on charm offensives of massive proportions if they are to persuade the right people to support these bold ideas for expansion. At the moment it looks really difficult but, just perhaps, where there is a will, there’s a way?

“We are evaluating the decision, which gives us the option to refile the antitrust case and go forward, as well as pursue the tort claim in arbitration,” Relevent said in a statement. “We’re considering what our options are.”

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