La Liga President Visits Miami, Talks U.S. Expansion, Calls American Soccer Fans "Cold"
The women came in high heels and skin-tight dresses. The men wore expensive suits with glittering cufflinks. And the lamb chops were encrusted with pistachio. It was, in other words, a sumptuous show befitting the La Liga -- or "the greatest soccer league in the universe," as a video confidently announced.
Michael E. Miller La Liga's new president, Javier Tebas
The event was a prequel to today's official announcement that TV network beIN Sport has rights to broadcast La Liga games within the U.S. next season. But the gala was also a brief glimpse into new Liga president Javier Tebas's plans for reducing debt, fighting corruption, and expanding stateside. "We have to work to expand the La Liga brand here," he told Riptide. "The United States is a market you can't ignore."
But Tebas didn't help his cause when he called American soccer fans "cold."
Tebas's visit is just the latest in a series of signs that European soccer is taking root in South Florida. Last August, a sold out Sun Life Stadium hosted 70,000 futbol fans for a game between Barcelona and Mexican team Chivas de Guadalajara.
The Miami Dolphins have agreed to stage more international soccer games as part of any deal to renovate Sun Life Stadium.
Tebas, who was elected Liga president only a week ago, spoke warmly of the American soccer market and its local league, Major League Soccer.
"There are some very good players here, [Latin] American as well as American," he said. "There are some teams that are on the level of those in Spain or Europe. But what is lacking is the international projection" of the league.
He said that La Liga is currently opening offices in the U.S., Asia, and the Middle East "to expand the La Liga brand." "The big clubs [like Barcelona and Real Madrid] are already well known," he said. "But we have to promote more the idea of the league."
Michael E. Miller USA captain Clint Dempsey during a friendly against Honduras last year