The Champions League final could soon be played outside of Europe, according to fresh reports.
Per Spanish outlet AS, via The Sun, UEFA – with the backing of FIFA – are said to be ‘favourably’ considering staging European club football’s showpiece occasion in the United States in the near future.
The market for the beautiful game in North America has grown rapidly in recent times, with the continent already set to host the 2026 World Cup.
FIFA chiefs have made no secret in the past of their desire to cash in on the commercial appeal of Europe’s biggest clubs by bringing competitive games to the USA – and matches don’t come much bigger than the Champions League final.
Champions League final in the USA?
The idea was previously floated back in 2019 when New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium was touted as a potential venue for the 2024 final.
Plans were shelved after the coronavirus pandemic saw the 2020 final relocated from Istanbul to Lisbon – a move that saw all scheduled hosts shifted back a year.
As a result, all Champions League final venues are now locked in until after the 2025 fixture at Munich’s Allianz Arena.
However, with international travel now largely back to normal, UEFA appear keen to make the proposal a reality.
The appeal in terms of sponsorship and TV rights opportunities is substantial in the lucrative North American market, but there’s huge logistical challenges involved with making such a move.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin is certainly a big fan of the idea – and tried to play down the impact on fans when speaking about the possibility of the final taking place outside of Europe when speaking about the idea in 2016.
“To go from Portugal to Azerbaijan, for example, is almost the same as if you go to New York. For the fans, it’s no problem.”
A very random example, given that there hasn’t been a Portuguese finalist since Porto’s 2004 victory, and the Champions League final has never taken place in Azerbaijan.
We take his point, though. There are some journeys within Europe that would take longer than a flight to New York.
That fact, however, still doesn’t mean that relocating the final is a good idea.
Champions League final travel too expensive for fans
As much of an epic away trip as a visit to the States might be, many fans are already feeling the financial strain of following their teams every week. For some, travelling across the Atlantic simply won’t be an option.
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More than at any time in the past, football is truly a global game and it seems inevitable that high-profile European matches will increasingly be staged outside of the continent.
Whether it is appropriate to begin that process with the crown jewel of club football in the Champions League final will, no doubt, be the subject of much debate.
Ahead of a winter World Cup in Qatar that has required significant adjustments to domestic schedules, football’s governing bodies seem intent on pushing forward with aggressive plans to cash in on the game’s popularity around the globe.