So Liverpool’s squad is now in the US for the first time since 2004 ready for their North American tour. There are three matches scheduled: Toronto FC on July 21, AS Roma at Fenway Park in Boston on July 25 and Tottenham in Baltimore on July 28. So how important is this tour and does this one have more riding on it than previous overseas tours?
There are two main objectives of the tour: commercial and performance. On the commercial front the tour is designed to build and reward Liverpool’s fan base in both Canada and United States plus build Liverpool’s brand, as the PR folks like to describe it. Ian Rush believes the Reds are the best-supported club in the world and that it’s very important for Liverpool to travel the world and go to its fans. “They’ve stuck with the club when times have not been as good as they would have liked them to have been. And for me that makes it even more successful, because when you’re winning it’s very easy. It’s when you’re not winning, that for me is when you stick together even tighter and you work harder. I think that’s what the supporters have been worldwide.” To Rush it’s critical the players entertain the fans, “We need to get a different generation, a younger generation (of fans).”
But Liverpool are by no means an unknown quantity in North America with supporters clubs all over the continent and Premier League games aired throughout every weekend throughout the season. Liverpool games are on TV here virtually every weekend, thank goodness, so awareness of Liverpool is extremely high. There are also US football (soccer) radio shows that air daily with the focus on the EPL so the football supporter here is becoming more and more knowledgeable. The days of football in North America being the domain of “soccer moms” and their kids is long gone as the fan base continues to grow along with the success of Major League Soccer, the MLS. Of course by building thier fan base Liverpool increase their financial strength. Think replica shirts, clothing, books and other LFC logo’ed merchandise which means a healthier club, more cash for players and so on. It’s an important goal of this tour.
This tour is also of major significance as it’s the first time Liverpool have played in the land of our owners. John Henry, Tom Werner and Fenway Sports can proudly showcase their English footballing crown jewel to their hometown supporters. And don’t forget shareholder Lebron James will surely play a big part.
From a performance point of view the tour has major significance on several fronts. We’ll get to see Liverpool play for the first time under Brendan Rogers’s leadership and new style of football. Clarity will begin to emerge as to which players look comfortable with the new possession/passing style of play. Borini will get his debut and the long-awaited, and very welcome, return of Lucas Leiva from injury will occur. Questions such as will we see Andy Carroll, due to join the squad on July 23rd, play a role in any of the matches and will Aquilani and Cole presence begin to emerge. One thing for sure is that every player in the squad will be desperate to show Rogers that they fit in. “Everyone will be fighting for a place under the new manager” says Rush and Jamie Carragher also admitting that he is keen to prove himself to Rodgers.
Finally, the game of the greatest significance will be one against Spurs. With AVB now in charge it’s going to be fascinating to see how Liverpool measure up to the team that finished fourth in the league last season, albeit a friendly. This is a tour of major importance for Liverpool on many different fronts and positive results here may just set the tone for the rest of season.