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La Liga in North America: The global game gone too far? Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid reaction

Relevent Sports chairman Charlie Stillitano explains his vision to build and promote the La Liga brand through games played in the U.S.
With La Liga agreeing a 15-year joint venture to bring games to the U.S., FC's Craig Burley explains the benefits he sees for all parties involved.
Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu believes the club are working hard to build their brand in the United States and help improve the popularity of the sport.

La Liga is coming to the U.S.! Thursday's announcement of a 15-year partnership with Relevent, a multinational media, sports and entertainment company, means Lionel Messi and his Barcelona teammates could line up for a league game in America. 

But how do fans in Spain feel about the news? ESPN FC's La Liga correspondents and bloggers have their say, and you can too by voting in the poll. 

BARCELONA

Sam Marsden: In theory, the idea has some good elements (and we've seen it work relatively well with the NFL in London), but in practice there are some major issues. Who will play the game(s)? Who will give up home advantage? Will Americans want to watch fixtures that don't include Barcelona or Real Madrid?

Fundamentally, it's the Spanish league, and while tapping into foreign markets is something which should be encouraged, taking league fixtures abroad is dangerous ground.

I think Barca will embrace the decision, though. President Josep Maria Bartomeu told ESPN this summer the club are keen to keep growing in the U.S., and Jordi Mestre said that, as a global club, the La Liga champions are open to playing competitive games in North America. Besides, as we've seen on recent tours to the U.S., any game Barca play, perhaps excluding a Clasico, will be like a home game for them in terms of support.

Richard Martin: The announcement can come as no surprise. La Liga has been talking publicly about its desire to export regular-season games for years and has taken a lot of steps in its bid for international expansion, as it plays catchup with the Premier League. Barcelona and Real Madrid have huge fanbases in the States, as the popularity of their International Champions Cup games shows, but the appeal of other Spanish teams there is less clear. La Liga's desire to increase the popularity of teams outside the top two make the likes of Sevilla, Real Betis, Valencia and Villarreal the likely candidates for a game abroad, but it remains to be seen how popular a game not involving one of Real or Barca would be.

Barca's local fans are used to having their rights trampled upon and will no doubt be furious about the move, especially if it does take away a game from Camp Nou. But the reality is that their fanbase spreads way beyond Catalonia, and the people in charge of the club are desperate to see it continue to expand, making playing games abroad inevitable.

REAL MADRID

Robbie Dunne: It's indicative of the way football is going and while I don't necessarily agree with it, there is something almost inevitable about it as the idea of globalisation continues to erode the community spirit of many fanbases. They use the NBA and the NFL as examples of how international games can improve growth, but they are leagues that are systematically different from football in ownership, player agreements, sponsorships and everything else. The contest to win international fans and get attention is not going to slow down any time soon, and fans will suffer in the long run.

The big clubs in Spain are international businesses, but you have to wonder what football fandom looks like in 10 years' time and whether there is any end to football's growth. Will they explore a La Liga "franchise" based in the States, like they have done with the NFL? What's the next step?

Rob Train: The globalisation of football is an unstoppable force and tapping into the U.S. market an inevitable step, but at what cost to La Liga as a competition? The "big three" already enjoy huge financial advantages and the new television deal will only paper over the cracks for so long. Staging the Spanish Super Cup in Morocco was a toe in the water but Real Madrid failed to sell their ticket allocation for the European version in Tallinn and the Copa del Rey final is next on the list for international export.

Florentino Perez backed the formation of a European Super League in 2009 so Real Madrid could avoid the inconvenience of competing against sides he deemed unworthy of Champions League football. He will undoubtedly benefit from this arrangement but it's hard to see how La Liga will.

Spain needs a Leicester City; Real Betis and Valencia are the most likely candidates this season but hardly cast-iron bets. The top flight is in danger of becoming a closed shop and one thing a closed shop lacks is customers. Spanish football fans have long been an inconvenience to La Liga; attendances for Friday and Monday fixtures are pitiful and sanctions for clubs who do not camouflage empty stands for the global cameras have been imposed.

International expansion? Fine. But this latest move may be the straw that breaks the cash-camel's back domestically and that is something the LFP should consider first.

ATLETICO MADRID

Joe Walker: It's not for me. I am not surprised given La Liga's determination to compete against the Premier League on a global scale, and understand that clubs have worldwide fanbases they want to reach out to -- but there are other ways to do so, such as preseason tours and friendlies.

Granted, if you're a small club and you get a clash against a Madrid or Barca in America, the exposure will be great, but if they pit two mid-to-lower table sides against each other as guinea pigs, with all the logistics and costs involved, it might be a pointless exercise. There is also the potential for you to upset local fans and season-ticket holders who feel you're selling out and short-changing them.

How I feel about Atletico in America? I am not in favour of them playing games over there, but think it would work well for the club. They are the nearest challengers to Real and Barcelona, and it could help cement them in that top bracket of world football that right now they probably just sit outside.

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