Normally, European giants travel to the far corners of the world for a preseason friendly tour. For fans, they get a chance to see a team in person instead of having to fly to Europe to see. For players, they get a chance to see a different part of the world while they’re still fresh and get ready for the season. For teams, they usually make more money by going somewhere else rather than staying home for their preseason.
In the United States, some of the top European teams come over and either play against each other in the International Champions Cup or they play an MLS or lower division team. Now, that idea is being turned on its head as an MLS team is going to Europe for an friendly during their regular season.
To celebrate the career of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Bayern Munich and Chicago Fire will take part in a testimonial at the Allianz Arena in Munich on August 28. Schweinsteiger is going to play one half with the team he became a world class player and the other half with the team he currently plays for.
No doubt a game like this is deserving for someone as great as Bastian Schweinsteiger. The 33-year-old World Cup winner certainly deserves one final game in Munich and Bayern Munich and Chicago Fire did a great job to make that happen. But positive PR aside, the elephant in the room cannot be ignored. For a league that has many issues with long travel throughout a season, Chicago is putting in a friendly to Munich, Germany. Especially during a time where many European teams are coming to the United States.
Who knows, maybe it was out of the question for Bayern Munich to have a winter friendly. Sure, the Bundesliga has a winter break but that winter break is valued by Bundesliga teams who keep training and scrimmages light during that time. And, let’s face it, a Bundesliga team is going to have leverage over an MLS team so it’ll be the MLS team who will have to make concessions for this to work.
But that doesn’t make the travel any less rigorous. Chicago and MLS did the best they can to make sure the Fire had a huge break after this game. The Bayern friendly is on August 28 and Chicago won’t need to play until September 16. And given this isn’t an MLS game, hopefully Fire ownership will splurge for a chartered flight to and from Munich and that doesn’t affect their four chartered flight limit. But it’s still an eight hour flight each way and unlike German Bundesliga teams, American and Canadian MLS teams have to fly everywhere for away games. And for a team like Chicago, whose closest opponent is the same distance as the Premier League’s farthest trip (Newcastle to Bournemouth), it can be a very tiring season without having to travel to Germany in the middle of that.