American fans have been treated to a lot of Latino teams this summer at both the international and club level. A lot of the attention to these teams came as a result of Copa America Centenario, which brought some of the world’s greatest stars to the U.S. and proved to be quite successful.
But if you thought that was the end of it, you were wrong. Several NPSL teams invited Mexican clubs to play friendly matches this summer, further showcasing the passion of Latino soccer. Among these teams were Albion SC Pros, Chattanooga FC, and Fort Worth Vaqueros.
Some of the Mexican clubs – such as Santos Laguna and CF Monterrey – played multiple matches, which given the distance some of them had to travel, allowed them to maximize their trip.
“It made more sense to the Mexican clubs to come up to play multiple matches,” said Tobias Xavier Lopez, Director of Business Operations for Fort Worth Vaqueros. He also added that this has “opened the door to additional matches next summer.”
For forward Matt Clare, who scored a hat trick in Albion SC’s 3-0 win over Xolos – or Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles – the fact that Mexican teams are coming over to play against NPSL teams shows how much the league has grown.
“Just to have such big clubs even consider coming over to play against teams in the NPSL should say a lot about the league in itself. The league is always looking for ways to grow and develop and always taking actions to make the league grow and gain more and more attention,” he said.
Ziggy Korytoski, the Albion SC head coach, believes that Albion SC’s victory shows that the work being done by both the league and the club is paying off.
“I think it shows that we have a good thing going here. The NPSL is a high level for players to develop and earn experience as we have a mix of both young talent and seasoned players throughout the league. We take a lot of pride as a club in creating a culture with acts as a platform for young aspiring professionals to develop as well as be showcased,” said Korytoski.
But while the NPSL allows for local talent to be showcased, international friendlies allow the teams to recruit talent – both local and overseas.
“What that does for us is it helps draw talent here in the summer, so we use this not just to entertain fans but also to help recruit new players and get new guys in our system,” said Sean McDaniel, General Manager of Chattanooga FC.
McDaniel, whose team played against Tigres UANL, thinks that friendly matches of this nature give American soccer fans a taste of a different culture, broadening their horizons.
“When they [fans] see Tigres, when they see Middlesbrough, when they see these international teams make Chattanooga a stop-over on their tour, it absolutely generates intrigue and interest from just the casual fan, because people now play for the love of the game, they play for the passion behind the game and to see other cultures that have been doing that for a 100 years bring that level to a southeastern city in the U.S. I think it makes people take notice and really begin to connect with how the rest of the world views the beautiful game,” he shared.
Given the success of these international friendlies, you can expect to see more of them in the future. In the case of Fort Worth, the team is committed to hosting at least one international friendly each year.
“Our ownership group is committed to having at least one international match each year. We are 3-for-3 on hosting internationals in each year so far and we absolutely intend to continue that trend,” said Tobias Xavier Lopez.
Ian Cook from Albion SC Pros echoes Tobias’ words. “The best want to play against the best, so Albion Pros is definitely open to playing international opponents in the near future.”
As the NPSL continues to rise, so will the number of international friendlies. If you’ve enjoyed the friendlies this summer, stay tuned for what’s in store next season.