The now-annual International Champions Cup (ICC) is coming to North America again this summer, giving fans a chance to see Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, and Club América, in addition to some MLS teams, of course.
But the big draw, probably aside from Club América, is the European teams, but how much can you expect to pay for the privilege of seeing your favorite European teams exert themselves during their pre-seasons? Ultimately, however much people want to spend to sprint onto the field to snap selfies with Isco, because these are precious moments for starving Americans to see their favorite Europeans kicking balls in the flesh.
Here are a few prices from official Ticketmaster pricing:
Manchester United vs. Barcelona (Santa Clara, CA)
The cheapest ticket for this heavyweight showdown is $90. The only problem is, when you try to purchase one of those $90 tickets: “Sorry, no tickets match your search.”
How about a $190 ticket in the 400-level, instead? Actually, a $218.50 ticket, after you’ve added the $14.00 facility charge and the $14.50 service charge. For a 400-level ticket.
And what comes after the $190-level, pre-add-on charges?
But, hey, that’s former European Champions Manchester United and Barcelona during pre-season. As I was told this morning on Twitter:
Chelsea vs. Barcelona (Landover, MD)
Another high-profile match between past Champions League winners. It’s called the Champions Cup for a reason, right? Cost? A very reasonable $58 for the cheapest tickets, even if the game’s in nightmare-to-get-into-or-out-of Maryland, aka FedEx Field, home of the R*******.
Hold on: “Sorry, no tickets match your search.” Again?
So, actually, make that $73. And then add $10.70 for #servicecharges.
What about the other ticket prices?
Remember: to watch people get in shape. During pre-season.
But to be fair, these are the premier (pre-season) ICC games. There’s a demand to see these superstars because they’re the best players in the world, even if it’s for a meaningless pre-season cup. Those “unavailable” tickets above? They didn’t buy themselves.
Which brings us back to pricing. Among the 17 ICC games where tickets are already on sale, there are more affordable options. The cheapest tickets for Paris Saint-Germain vs. Chelsea, at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, will run you $39.00 for the 500-level ($46.93 with taxes and fees). The cheapest Porto vs. Fiorentina tickets in East Hartford, CT will run you $32.00 ($45.45 when you include fees and an order charge).
Cheap? Not at all. But cheaper than $218 for nose-bleed seats.
The entity putting on the competition is the hilariously named Relevent Sports, a “division of RSE Ventures,” which is basically a hybrid venture capital firm/incubator of ideas. In ICC press releases, RSE is described in the most VC-ish sort of ways, as “a multi-national sports and entertainment venture firm with a focus on new technologies.” Yeah, one of those.
Relevent Sports’ website is a splash page at the moment, but they will be back very soon.
Much of the cash people spend on the ICC will land somewhere inside of this incubating, tech venture wormhole. Meanwhile, as the game approaches, that wormhole will be responsible for maximizing its return by saying whatever it needs to say to justify prices; like they’re promoting a Mayweather fight while being painfully aware that he’s actually going to spend the vast majority of time in the ring-rolling around punches en route to a decision.
But that’s actually what Relevent/RSE are supposed to be doing — hustling to get a return on their investment. And that’s exactly what they’re doing. Here’s Charlie Stillitano, Chairman of Relevent Sports, painting a picture of pre-season greatness:
“These matchups speak to the immense success and quality of the International Champions Cup. Not only are three of the quarter-finalists for the Champions League participating, but the Chelsea vs. Paris Saint-Germain finish in the round of 16 was spectacular. Showcasing this rematch, along with the multitude of other high quality and competitive contests, is truly exciting and shows these games are more than just friendlies.”
Nice sales pitch.
Meanwhile, we keep being reminded about the broad accessibility of soccer, the people’s game. The impoverished roots of some of the game’s superstars are glamorized on a never-ending started-from-the-bottom loop. Accessibility has long been touted as one of the lynchpins of American soccer’s future, but if the ICC shows us anything, it’s that accessibility isn’t the end goal for all of American soccer. Unsurprisingly, profits are.
The minute a higher price can be justified — the minute 300-level seats can go for higher prices — the price point will move. And every step of the way, we’ll be told that it’s for the good of the domestic game, and that you’re watching something better than you’re actually watching, even when the actual evidence is lacking. Because things have to be sold. It’s their job, even if we all know that it’s really preseason.