Spanish underdog SD Eibar seeks spotlight in South Jersey
SD Eibar, one ofthe smaller teams in in Spain's renowned La Liga, will take the field Sunday at Rowan University. The game against the Philadelphia Fury - a semi-pro team in the fifth-tier American Soccer League - is part of the LFP World Challenge, a series of international friendlies organized by Spain's Liga de Fútbol Profesional that's now in its third year.
Corrected on May 23, 2016: The ASL is in the fourth tier, of the American soccer hierarchy, not the fifth tier.
Preamble: You may have seen Erin's byline on Philly.com before if you're a Penn State football fan, as she has covered the program for us from State College for the last few years, She's spending this summer in Philadelphia helping us report on a range of topics, including the upcoming Copa América Centenario. So you'll likely see her byline on here a few more times in the months to come.
Also, you'll see below some remarks from Philadelphia Fury owner and American Soccer League CEO Matt Driver about his intention to foster stronger ties with Eibar. You may have noticed that over the last few days, I've reported a little bit on just what those intentions are. I'm still in the process of reporting the story, but suffice to say that I'll have many more details soon.
Now here's Erin, with the answer to a question that many of you have asked me over the last few days: Just what exactly is a small club like Eibar doing touring the United States?
But the trip to the Philadelphia area has deeper meaning for both SD Eibar and the Fury.
"Eibar is a fascinating team," said Daniel Kinsella, chief financial officer for Global Fútbol Partners, a consulting firm that works with many Spanish soccer clubs and organized Sunday's game.
"They're a classic underdog team," he said. "We feel there is tremendous upside with a club like that and their story here in the U.S. The nontraditional soccer fan can really fall in love with the team and the organization."
Partly, this trip is a "thank you" from Eibar to those who helped them reach La Liga, Fury owner and ASL CEO Matt Driver said.
Kinsella said this visit was "very hastily arranged," which is not uncommon for these types of international friendlies, but Global Fútbol Partners is excited about playing in Philadelphia as part of a longer-term goal.
"We are looking to have a longtime relationship with them," Driver said of Eibar. "It's not just an exhibition game."
Driver said he wants to continue to develop American players and move them abroad. Driver bought the rights to the Fury in 2011. The team had been dormant in Philadelphia since the 1970s, when it was owned by rock stars Paul Simon, Peter Frampton, and Rick Wakeman.
"A long-term goal is to get people to look at ASL, to look at the Fury. It's a great product," Kinsella said. "There's a big connection between the town and the players. They're not just hired guns coming in and playing. They interact with the town and the club system."
Sunday's game is scheduled for 5 p.m. at Rowan's Richard Wackar Stadium.
"This is a big deal for SD Eibar," Driver said. "They're going to be firmly planted in Philadelphia."