If former U.S. men’s national team goalkeeper Brad Friedel can develop a British accent, then English Premier League soccer can make a splash in the states.
After contributing to three U.S. World Cup teams and spending 23 years in Europe (thus the accent), the 43-year-old Friedel is now part of Tottenham Hotspur, which will play the Seattle Sounders in a Saturday friendly at CenturyLink Field. He’s also a hired ambassador for the EPL club, and works to spread Tottenham’s brand in North America.
Just as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is trying to establish a presence in England, so too do European soccer teams try to raise awareness in the U.S. To do that, playing in front of as many American soccer fans as possible is the goal. Therefore, Tottenham chose Seattle as its first stop in a three-match tour through the U.S. and Canada to kick off Spurs’ preseason this month.
With Seattle at the top of MLS attendance numbers, playing the Sounders in a friendly seemed like an obvious choice. But Tottenham also considered the level of competition they would face, and how much Seattle could offer Hotspur in terms of preseason conditioning. Hotspur finished sixth in the Premier League last season and is looking to build on that.
“The facilities have to be brilliant because it’s a serious time for the club because we only get one opportunity to get everybody fit and ready for the season,” said Hotspur executive director Donna-Maria Cullen. “There’s a great setup here.”
An attacking style of play is part of what has made Tottenham a club that has 30 American supporter groups throughout the country (Seattle’s is one of the strongest).
Harry Kane, who has been with the club since he was 10 years old, has seen the club’s global footprint increase.
“For me, being a local lad and being part of my home club, for me, it’s extra special,” said Kane, now 20. “We’ve been doing well recently. … I think people are starting to notice it.”
Seattle is starting to notice, too. The Sounders have already sold more than 52,000 tickets.
For Friedel, the visit stateside will be even more special for him: He’ll get to reunite with Sounders coach Sigi Schmid, who coached Friedel at UCLA.
“It will be a great test for us,” he said. “Knowing Sigi, I’m sure he will put a full lineup out. He has German background, after all.”