In a bit of ironic timing, the Telegraph report today (Friday) that Chelsea are among the teams “being lined up” for friendlies against the celebrity-owned Wrexham AFC in the United States this summer, with Chelsea’s match against the non-league side “poised” for July 19 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. A game against Manchester United has also been “provisionally agreed”.
These two friendlies are separate from the $1m 7-v-7 tournament that’s being organized by ESPN and which will hold its inaugural edition in June, also in North Carolina. Wrexham are among the higher profile entrants for that bit of silliness, super creatively named “The Soccer Tournament”.
Chelsea coming to America for summer tours is of course nothing new, though just today as well, in his pre-match press conference, head coach Graham Potter brought up the shambles of a trip last summer as one of the reasons our season has gone south so badly.
“There was a sub-optimal pre-season – and speaking to a few of the experienced guys, they thought it was the worst pre-season they’ve had for different reasons. That isn’t to blame anybody for the reasons. It’s just that it happened [...] more organisationally, for different reasons, the tour didn’t quite work as well as they’d have liked. I wasn’t there so I can’t say.”
-Graham Potter; source: Football.London
He may be overstating its impact now, some seven months removed from it, but his predecessor wasn’t exactly happy with how that all went down either — from travel to the soaring temperatues and humidity, to distractions and various other non-football coaching commitments — leaving him to play catch-up from day one of the season proper.
And summer tours were bones of contention many times in the past as well, especially for the likes of José Mourinho and Antonio Conte. The Chelsea front office did listen for a while, with preseasons then often spent in Austria or Ireland as a result, but marketing needs must, especially after the pandemic put a stop to most such travel.
Given the new ownership’s stated desire to maximize Chelsea’s marketing potential, this may be just the start. Better invest in some travel pillows!