Report: La Liga's Athletic Bilbao could play MLS teams in 2015
La Liga's Athletic Bilbao is being courted by Boise, Idaho's Convention and Visitors Bureau to play a three-match friendly in the Pacific Northwest, Inside Spanish Football's Tom Conn reported Tuesday. The matches would take place in Boise during the last weekend of July, 2015, and could involve the Seattle Sounders, the Portland Timbers or Real Salt Lake.
The CVB has reportedly raised $100,000 to bring the Spanish club stateside. A Basque website reports the city has been courting small donations for this effort since 2013. The largest city in Idaho is "home to 15,000 Basque descendants" who are keen to watch the club from the heart of Spain's Basque Region in person. The 2015 exhibition matches would coincide with the Jaialdi Festival, a festival commemorating the Basque Diaspora Boise hosts once every five years.
The matches would also pit one of Europe's better teams against one of America's, possibly earning both clubs increased exposure in each other's respective markets. The MLS-Europe friendlies are part of a growing trend; According to World Soccer Talk, more than 45 friendlies will be played in the U.S. in 2014, many of them between American and international teams.
The report comes just two days after the Sounders and Timbers, two of Major League Soccer's most popular teams, proved they can pack a stadium. The Sounders knocked off the Timbers on Sunday night in front of 64,000 at CenturyLink Field. Either team would be expected to draw a large turnout in Boise next year.
The Sounders have their international-friendly sites set on a match coming up much sooner than the possible Bilbao one: They face the English Premier League's Tottenham Hotspur F.C. on Saturday night at CenturyLink.
- Will Green