(What are the Bayern Müncheners doing differently?)
Bayern München - Excerpt - Soccer America
So from all over the world they come looking for a piece of the American pie -- and an especially enticing point of entry into the U.S. market is youth soccer.
Chelsea’s partnership with the 9,000-player CASL ended in 2012, but it sold lots of replica jerseys to Americans. This year, we’ve had two European clubs venture into the U.S. market that actually do have an impressive record of graduating players from its youth academy to its first team: Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
Barcelona has launched an academy in Florida. (La Masia, Barcelona’s famed academy in Spain, doesn’t charge kids. This U.S. version is, surprise, a pay-to-play venture.)
Credit to Bayern Munich for being honest about why it has forged a partnership with Global Premier Soccer. “Our main objective is that we brand build and get in touch with our fan base,” Rudolf Vidal, CEO of Bayern Munich in the USA. Despite its long history as a superclub, Bayern has lagged in U.S. popularity behind English Premier League clubs, which have gotten far more television exposure in the USA than Bundesliga teams, and behind the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Bayern, a Bundesliga record 23-time champion, has been on a particularly good roll recently, reaching 3 of the last 5 Champions League finals. And Germany’s 2014 World Cup title-winning team included 7 Bayern players and 5 players from Bayern’s youth academy.
The quest by Bayern, which opened a New York City office and a U.S online store earlier this year, to build its American fan base is perfectly understandable as its global rivals have been doing the same. Kids, of course, are a prime target. “Part of the brand-building process is definitely the grass-roots approach where we can bring our know-how to the States,” says Vidal. “We want to build the brand, get in touch with the people who are interested in Bayern Munich and go into the youth soccer structure and try to help wherever we can. It’s not like we can reform the whole system. We want to help, add something.” He says he’s very confident this will be “a win-win situation for everybody. That means for the kids, for Bayern Munich, and for GPS.”
“We’ll send the best coaches coming from Germany,” Vidal says. “We’ll bring GPS coaches to Germany. We’ll give them our curriculum and principles to tell them how we work, what is the secret behind that.”
Much of Bayern’s success in youth development is not so secret. It fields one team at each youth age group comprised of the best players it can find from mainly southern Germany, but also from throughout the country and abroad. And each year players are cut and new talent comes in. Bayern coaches have the luxury of coaching the very best players at a particular age group. They coach players whom their scouts assessed as having the potential to become pros. The American coaches (whom Bayern coaches will be advising) coach in a very different environment. Will Bayern guidance help them become better coaches to young Americans? Perhaps. Will Bayern be selling lots more jerseys? For sure.