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Arsene Wenger lauds American soccer fans: “This is perfect time to visit USA”

Jul 21, 2014, 9:19 AM EDT

FC Bayern Muenchen v Arsenal - UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Getty Images

Ahead of Arsenal’s brief jaunt over to the U.S. to play against the New York Red Bulls this weekend, manager Arsene Wenger has been speaking out about how much soccer has grown in North America.

Wenger, 64, spent his entire summer working for French station Canal+ at the World Cup and has now returned to prepare his squad for the 2014-15 Premier League season.

[RELATED: Schedule for PL teams on US tours]

Whilst down in Brazil covering the World Cup, Wenger was “stopped by so many American people” and he can’t recall more interest in soccer from the U.S. since he’s been in charge of the North London outfit. The Gunners will face club legend Thierry Henry and the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena on Saturday, July 26th at 5 p.m. ET in front of what is expected to be a packed out crowd.

Arsenal have a huge following in the USA and Wenger has told the club website, before the squad jets across the Atlantic Ocean, to express how impressed he is with the huge levels of support he’s seen Stateside for the sport in recent years.

“It is the first time since I [started to] go to World Cups that I’ve been stopped by so many American people,” Wenger said. “I can tell you something I’m completely convinced of – before people didn’t know who you were, but now every American guy I met knows Arsenal, knows England and knows the Premier League.

“The enthusiasm about soccer in the States is new but big. I expect us to have a good crowd there. I hope that we can help to develop the interest in the game and that we can play a good match there to make people enjoy it. It is the perfect time to go. I always wanted to go with Arsenal to the United States, so I’m personally very happy to do it.”

With the Gunners only making one short stop this time around, perhaps Wenger’s side will embark on a full blown U.S. tour next summer and in the years to come?

That would make plenty of Arsenal fans in the U.S., and seemingly Wenger himself, very happy indeed.

  1. vtcrusade - Jul 21, 2014 at 9:48 AM

    Would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to be there. Alas budget precludes it, but will be watching it on TV for sure

    • reddevildoop - Jul 21, 2014 at 12:41 PM

      I’m in the same boat, I wanted to go until I saw how much they raised the ticket prices at Red Bulls Arena.

  2. lordfletcher - Jul 21, 2014 at 10:40 AM

    He is 100% correct. The sport is growing and on the rise in the states.

    Will be interesting to see how ‘big’ it can become in the next 20+ years…. The next 2 world cups will set the stage I think for any potential youth movement and any major expansion for soccer in the USA.

    • lyleoross - Jul 21, 2014 at 11:37 AM

      If my understanding is correct, the youth movement is well underway. Soccer is now one of the top four for youth participation, and I think there is something like five million participants in the States.

      Here in Houston, I’m more likely to see an EPL shirt than a Texans shirt. There are five or more clubs with well over a thousand year round players, at a minimum; that doesn’t count all the guys that play scrub ball. I see more soccer in parks than softball, baseball, and any form of recreational football combined.

      • mahezam - Jul 21, 2014 at 12:26 PM

        Well, soccer has been one of the top sports for youth participation for a looong time. The challenge has always been getting kids to stick with it.

      • lyleoross - Jul 21, 2014 at 12:59 PM

        My understanding is that turnover is down too. My understanding was that while it is still high, it’s on par with other sports. I know it’s still high just from what I see in the local clubs, but I also know that there are several regional and national leagues for kids in the 14 to 18 age groups that are well attended.

      • deedeerivers - Jul 21, 2014 at 12:30 PM

        Try 25 million or more playing in recreational leagues. The MLS is the 7th most viewed league both in television and by ticket sales, and in the top two or three played recreationally. 30% of US households have at least one player, and ESPN ranked it as the second most popular sport for people 12-24.

        We have plenty of fans, it’s the haters and the media who just can’t get over it and let us love our sport.

      • lyleoross - Jul 21, 2014 at 1:05 PM

        The number of all players is closer to 13 million from what I’ve read, this is the internet after all, with five million in leagues, but such numbers are hard to verify. Regardless, there is plenty and I certainly wouldn’t discount your number. We are third overall in seats at games, consistent with what you’ve posted.

        And yes, you are correct, we have plenty of fans, and the haters can eat my shorts. Those same haters ruined baseball taking it from a tactical game to a big stick game because they didn’t have the skill set to enjoy a well managed game. Let’s hope they keep hating so we don’t have them destroying our sport too.

        On the other hand, the introduction of European analysts by ESPN and NBC has meant that losers like Jim Rome aren’t needed in our sport. We are developing, and bringing in our own guys and they are very good, and their voices are drowning out the haters.

  3. lilgurgi - Jul 21, 2014 at 11:27 AM

    It’s getting bigger and bigger as the people that grew up playing the sport most of their childhood/young adult lives (I played from 12 years) are raising their kids to love and play the sport.

  4. mikeevergreen - Jul 21, 2014 at 12:07 PM

    Wenger may be thinking of such not just for ticket sales, but for mining the US for talent. MLS players (both born here and foreign-born) keep getting better and better, and Wenger is always on the lookout for talent. Anything to make the Gunners better.

  5. rawmustard - Jul 21, 2014 at 12:15 PM

    If Wenger says soccer is growing here in the States, it would be a fool’s errand to disbelieve him. Even though I am an American who does not support his club, I have great respect for him and his statistical approach of player evaluation.

    • novemberreign - Jul 21, 2014 at 1:28 PM

      100% agreed, even if it is Arsenal (COYS)

  6. mahezam - Jul 21, 2014 at 12:28 PM

    It’s pretty crazy that Arsenal haven’t cashed in on a big American tour yet. They would draw big numbers, like every other big club does here.

  7. reddevildoop - Jul 21, 2014 at 12:39 PM

    I love when these big European clubs do tours over here in the states. What I don’t like is when the MLS clubs raise the ticket price for these games. I used to go to Red Bulls games and pay around $70 for a really good seat. When I saw Arsenal is coming I was excited until I looked at the price and they’ve tripled. If these exhibition tours are to get more people interested, don’t charge so much. Make it more price friendly to the fans and casual fans.

  8. onelovesoccer7 - Jul 21, 2014 at 1:08 PM

    play Zelalem!

  9. granadafan - Jul 21, 2014 at 2:08 PM

    I think they have to raise the prices because the big European clubs demand such a high fee for coming over to the States to play. The Euros aren’t doing this for charity or just to raise awareness of soccer in the States.

    That said, I’m excited for the direction of soccer in this country. Like millions of others, I grew up playing soccer but switched over to other popular sports like baseball, football and basketball because there were no more leagues or the other sports were more popular. I have no qualms about my lack of world class athletic abilty or talent. However, we need to KEEP developing the youth in leagues and sports culture. There are so many kids with a certain athetic ability to compete at a high level and who get lost in the highly competitve sports such as basketball or football that you can’t help but wonder if they would have been a star in another sport.

  10. jhnyr45 - Jul 21, 2014 at 2:59 PM

    Zelalem Should play, he is from Maryland! not too far away an as close as he will get to playing at home…. and Soccer will blow through when my generation ( 90’s kids) start to have children of their own. i grew up playing and follow it religously, i would hope my kids will too

    • andyoursistertoo - Jul 22, 2014 at 12:08 AM

      everyone needs to chant his name, Come on USMNT fans show him whos the best in the world!!!!

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