LaLiga submits request for Villarreal-Atlético game in Miami

Alvaro Morata (L) of Atletico de Madrid competes for the ball with Funes Mori (R) of Villarreal CF during the La Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Villarreal CF at Wanda Metropolitano on February 24, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

LaLiga is continuing its attempts to stage an official league game in the United States by proposing that a Villarreal-Atlético Madrid fixture be played at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium on December 6.

LaLiga has submitted a formal request to the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) for the clubs to play the match in Miami, which would be a designated home game for Villarreal.

“I hope this time it comes to fruition. We’re starting to see if Villarreal-Atleti can be played in Miami,” Villarreal president Fernando Roig told El Transistor. “Both us and Atleti have agreed to play in Miami, but I would like this to be a consensual agreement from everyone. I would like there to be a consensual agreement because I think that taking LaLiga abroad would be good for everyone.”

In its application, LaLiga has asked for the game to be played at 4pm local time (10pm in Spain).

Javier Tebas, the LaLiga president, said: “This match will be another boost to the internationalisation strategy of LaLiga, which is providing great results for all our member clubs and SADs. We hope that this time we can carry out this positive action for everyone, as other leagues like the NFL or the NBA do when they stage matches overseas.”

The league added: “The choice of teams has been made due to the interest and willingness shown by both clubs. The United States, and Miami in particular, are an essential part of LaLiga’s continued growth strategy. Villarreal CF has been working for several years in the North American market through the presence of academies and has run several training and marketing activities in the region.”

“Atlético de Madrid has just taken part in a successful summer tour of the United States, during which the club also participated in the MLS All-Star game that was played in Orlando, Florida.”

In August 2018, LaLiga announced that it would play at least one match per season overseas as part of a new 15-year partnership with Relevent Sports to promote the league in North America. But a proposed game between FC Barcelona and Girona at Hard Rock Stadium for January 2019 was shelved after Barcelona’s board of directors backed out of the fixture, citing “a lack of consensus” among stakeholders.

The RFEF, Uefa, Concacaf, and the United States Soccer Federation, among others, had not approved the game, and LaLiga will once again seek the approval of these bodies.

Concacaf said in a statement: “Concacaf has not received an official request to host LaLiga games in the United States. We will determine whether to grant any such permission if a request is made.”

US Soccer said in a statement: “At this time, we have not received an application for a match between Villarreal and Atletico Madrid [on Dec. 6] in Miami. If we do receive an application, we will review it to confirm that all the required approvals from the respective federations and confederations involved are provided, and that the match is in compliance with Fifa policies and directives.”

Related to this, LaLiga’s North American partner Relevent Sports filed an antitrust lawsuit against US Soccer in the Southern District of New York in September, alleging that the federation has conspired with global governing body Fifa and Soccer United Marketing, the commercial arm of Major League Soccer, to block official matches from foreign clubs being held on US soil. There is also a similar lawsuit between LaLiga and the Spanish federation over the right to stage games overseas.

SportBusiness understands that this game was the league’s first choice fixture to try to take to the US this season, with both clubs looking to increase their presences in the North American market. Atlético Madrid toured the US this summer, including participating in the MLS All-Star Game.