For Celtic FC, tonight's game at PPL Park in Chester is nothing more than a steppingstone, a scratch to a preseason itch for a team desperate to find its name within the group stage of UEFA's Champions League picture next month.
While the respect for the American game was apparent in the team's words, little in its actions dispelled the argument that tonight's match is viewed as anything more than a routine scrimmage.
According to Celtic players, they've viewed virtually zero game tape.
According to their coach, they have gazed at only a "wee bit" of some Union highlights since arriving here Monday evening.
And the players who spoke to the media yesterday found it difficult to name a single Union player.
"This [tour] is an important stage for us, considering we are looking to qualify for the Champions League in a few weeks," said manager and former team captain Neil Lennon, who has lost the "interim" tag after taking over for former coach Tony Mowbray toward the end of last season. "The players are just focusing now on just getting some football time on the pitch because they have done a lot of training."
In regards to the Union:
"We saw a wee bit of some of their highlights last night," Lennon said. "Listen, we know they are an MLS team and that brings about a decent standard, so they'll be up for this."
The winners of 34 Scottish cups and 42 Scottish league championships brought their marquee players. The Glasgow team is on a North American tour over the next 5 days to play games against Manchester United in Toronto (July 16), before a return to the States to play the Seattle Sounders FC at Qwest Field (July 18).
Forwards Marc-Antoine Fortune and Georgios Samaras headline a group that also will find Welsh captain Joe Ledley making his debut after joining the team Monday following a transfer from English Championship side Cardiff City.
"Celtic is a great club and a great fan base," Ledley said. "Celtic is big everywhere, it's a great club to sign for and I am looking forward to playing for them and obviously looking forward to helping them qualify for the European championships."
And while this game is the equivalent of the Union taking on its PDL side Harrisburg City Islanders in 2 weeks, PPL Park is nearing sellout numbers because of the name that will take on the Union tonight. It's estimated that Celtic and the glamour that comes with the storied franchise has generated a fan base at just over 9 million - a million strong in North America.
It's like spending twice as much for a shirt because of the brand name.
MLS released its "First XI" roster for the July 28 All-Star Game against Manchester United yesterday and, as it currently stands, no Union player will be making the trip to Houston. The voting was comprised of a 25 percent fan vote, with the remaining 75 percent split among league coaches, general managers, media and players.
Sebastien Le Toux - listed on the balloting as a midfielder - was among the top 20 in overall vote-getters but finished 2 percent shy of earning the last spot in the midfield category.
The Los Angeles Galaxy dominated the voting, with four players (Landon Donovan, Edson Buddle, Omar Gonzalez, Donovan Ricketts) making MLS' First XI. There is still a slight chance to have a Union player join the ranks. Twelve additional players will be named by virtue of 10 additional coaches' picks and two selections from MLS commissioner Don Garber. Those selections will be announced Monday.
Odds and endlines
Manchester United star Nani will be in attendance when the Union hosts the Red Devils at Lincoln Financial Field next Wednesday, according to an online report. Nani, the Portuguese forward who missed the World Cup due to a broken collarbone, is now listed as available for Manchester's preseason tour that ends with the July 28 match with the MLS All-Stars . . . Man U captain Gary Neville will miss the trip due to a calf injury as will Rio Ferdinand (knee), Antonio Valencia (ankle) and Michael Owen (hamstring) . . . The Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau is still urging fans to sign the 2018/2022 World Cup petition by texting "Philly" to 22442.