BERLIN (Reuters) - Champions League club Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke 04 will stage their winter training camps in Florida and will play in the Florida Cup as the German clubs look to expand their exposure in North America, they said on Friday.
Leverkusen will play in the eight-team tournament along with Brazilian sides Fluminense and Corinthians as well as Schalke 04 and will make the trip for the second consecutive year. Their two games in the tournament will be on Jan. 10 and 13. The other four teams are still to be confirmed.
“The United States are for us a hugely attractive market and financially very interesting,” said Leverkusen CEO Michael Schade. “Bayer 04 had very good experiences in this respect on their first trip (in January 2015) to Florida and we are convinced that potential sponsors and partners will appreciate this international platform.”
Schalke had spent the past four years preparing for the second half of the Bundesliga season in Qatar in an agreement with the Aspire academy for sports excellence in Doha.
The Ruhr valley club said it was time for a change as they were also drawn to America, with soccer gaining considerable ground over other traditional U.S. sports in recent years.
The Major Soccer League is expanding to 23 teams by 2018. MLS grew to 20 clubs this season with Orlando City and New York City FC both joining the league. Two more clubs, Atlanta and a second Los Angeles team, will enter MLS in 2017 as more and more big name European players cross the Atlantic to play there.
The U.S. national teams, both men’s and women‘s, are also witnessing growing support.
“The United States are an important market and so we are happy that we found there the perfect conditions and outstanding climate to set the foundations for a successful second half to the season,” said Schalke marketing director Alexander Jobst said in a statement.
Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich have already got a foothold on the continent, having opened an office in New York last year.
The German league that starts next week, traditionally stops for about five to six weeks between the middle of December and the end of January.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Amlan Chakraborty