There have been rumours swirling for the past month about Newcastle's upcoming summer preseason tour, and the only country linked is the United States. Newcastle's last tour in 2011 was deemed disastrous and too complex. With preseason matches in Columbus, Orlando, Dallas, and Kansas City, the travel was too much for such a short time in the States. The next tour should be more compact, less travel, and have a central base to do the bulk of their training. Because of both logistics and opportunities locally, I think the Toon Tour should have a Midwest base.
Why the Midwest?
Ease of Travel
The Midwest, particularly Chicago, has been a logistical hub for the entire country. It is the rail capital of the United States, with all major railroads handling freight in and out of the city. Interstate 80, a transcontinental highway, passes south of the city, providing a wide open opportunity to transport goods by truck. O'Hare International is always listed as one of the busiest airports in the world. What does this mean for the Toon?
Cheap and easy travel. Multiple flights on multiple airlines fly from Chicago to multiple airports in the UK, with Heathrow and Manchester taking the bulk of the traffic. United's direct flight from Newcastle to Newark, NJ provides an easy jaunt to Chicago shortly after that.
The Midwest is also football crazy, especially after last year's World Cup run. The official US Soccer watch parties grew big enough to require relocation to Soldier Field by the time the US reached the quarterfinals. If they progressed further, that stadium would have been filled. That's just to watch a match on screens!
The Midwest has also been popular for Premier League to play friendlies. Crystal Palace, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Swansea, Spurs, Chelsea, Stoke, and Aston Villa have all played friendlies in the Midwest in the last 3 years. They have played in Columbus, Chicago, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Indianapolis, and even at the Big House in Ann Arbor Michigan.
Newcastle's fan base has also shown some promise in the Midwest. There are Toon Army groups on both Facebook and Twitter based in Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Indianapolis, and Minnesota.
Strong, competitive sides in both the MLS and USL are prominent in the Midwest. The Midwest is home to 3 perennial MLS contenders: Sporting KC, Columbus Crew, and the Chicago Fire. Even Toronto FC is not that far away! USL teams also pepper smaller Midwestern cities, with future MLS team Minnesota United in Minneapolis and other squads in St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Louisville.
Outside of football, fans coming over from the UK also have a chance to holiday in some great locations. Chicago has a lot to offer with its architecture, many concerts and festivals, food, and its many tourist attractions. St. Louis, KC, and other cities in the Midwest all have great charm and would make great hosts for its British visitors.
What's the Catch?
The Midwest also has some potential downsides in the summertime. Some of them are things naturally occurring in the summertime, and others are scheduling issues that might be deal breakers for the Toon.
If you have ever been in the Midwest in the summertime, one thing is for certain--it's HOT! Not only is heat prevalent, but humidity also runs high. The result is a sweltering, muggy heat that makes training a real chore.
The heat and humidity also brings on wave after wave of thunderstorms. While the weather is not as spectacular in the spring, it still poses risks. Thunderstorms can cause matches to be delayed or cancelled, bringing a disappointment to the fans that travel for the matches.
This summer is a busy season for matches in the United States. We are hosting the Gold Cup in July. Chicago and Kansas City are host cities, and the matches are in early July. The competition to sell tickets for both the Gold Cup and Premier League friendlies, especially against a club like Newcastle, could be a tough sell.
Overall, I think the Midwest would be an ideal place to bring the Toon for a US preseason tour. Travel is relatively cheap and easy, the people are knowledgeable and friendly, and there is ample competition available. Here is my proposed schedule, should they play in the Midwest:
EDIT: My previous dates spanned between August 5-15, not realizing the Premier League starts on August 8 per the Premier League Twitter account. Here is my new proposed schedule:
- Saturday, June 27 - Chicago Fire
- Wednesday, July 1 - Toronto FC
- Sunday, July 5 - Sporting Kansas City
- Wednesday, July 8 - Columbus Crew