Heads of class

In­ter­na­tional soc­cer ti­tans com­ing to Colorado for two weeks

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Ja­son Blevins

Top Ger­man soc­cer teams will scrim­mage, coach and men­tor in Colorado for two weeks in July, in a se­ries of events aim­ing to el­e­vate the state’s pro­file among in­ter­na­tional tourists and su­per­charge the al­ready vi­brant soc­cer scene.

The Colorado Cup is a big deal for soc­cer fans. They’ll get to see Bun­desliga teams Mainz 05 and Mönchenglad­bach prac­tice and play against two top- tier, though still un­named, teams from Mex­ico.

And­for tourism of­fi­cials statewide, the mul­ti­c­ity pro­gram July 9- 21 and two re­lated po­ten­tial broad­cast deals prom­ise the chance to mar­ket sum­mer Colorado tourism to in­ter­na­tional trav­el­ers, who typ­i­cally spend more than any other type of vis­i­tor.

Mainz 05 and Mönchenglad­bach will train in Vail and at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, of­fer­ing player camps, coach­ing clin­ics and other pub­lic events around play­ers who rank as he­roes in Europe.

The teams also will play friendly con­tests against teams from Mex­ico in high- cal­iber com­pe­ti­tions at Sports Au­thor­ity Field at Mile High and the Air Force Academy.

For in­ter­na­tional soc­cer fans, this is akin to a pro­longed visit from the Den­ver Bron­cos or Green Bay Pack­ers. ( In­ci­den­tally, Bun­desliga rules re­quire that fans re­tain at least 51 per­cent own­er­ship of each team, sim­i­lar to the pub­licly owned Pack­ers.)

Bun­desliga play­ers are revered around the world. While they may not be in­stantly rec­og­nized in the U. S., the Colorado Cup hopes to change that.

Just as the NFL is schem­ing ways to grow its in­ter­na­tional pres­ence with pos­si­ble games in South Amer­ica, Europe and China, the Bun­desliga is vy­ing to el­e­vate its pro­file abroad, es­pe­cially amongthe 3.5 mil­lion kids who play soc­cer in the U. S.

So the teams are work­ing with soc­cer clubs in Vail, Den­ver and Colorado Springs to de­velop clin­ics and events around their train­ing camps.

“Play­ers can learn by just watch­ing some of the best play­ers in the game. There’s a real trans­fer there. We are hop­ing their prac­tices will be open to the pub­lic so play­ers and coaches can learn and they can share their knowl­edge with us,” said Colorado Soc­cer As­so­ci­a­tion coach­ing di­rec­tor Mike Fre­itag. “It’s pretty ex­cit­ing.”

For Colorado’s tourism and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment lead­ers, it’s a big deal for a dif­fer­ent rea­son.

Yes, the soc­cer will be im­pres­sive. But a pos­si­ble broad­cast agree­ment for the Mile High and Air Force Academy games with Fox Sports, which started tele­vis­ing live Bun­desliga matches in Au­gust as part of a multi year agree­ment, could help beam Colorado’s sum­mer scenery to as many as 200 coun­tries.

The ex­act dates in July for those con­tests are not set. Justin Rose, an Ara­pa­hoe High grad­u­ate whose Frank­furt- based JJR Con­sult­ing group is host­ing the event, said he is work­ing with Mex­i­can net­works to broad­cast the games aswell.

“I think, for us, the po­ten­tial to mar­ket Colorado in as­so­ci­a­tion with the Bun­desliga league and Ger­many and some of the clubs from Mex­ico, that’s a big ben­e­fit,” said Michael Driver, di­rec­tor of in­ter­na­tional mar­ket­ing for the Colorado Tourism Of­fice, which hasn’t pledged fi­nan­cial sup­port but might.

Four teams— each with as many as 40 staff and play­ers — and tourists com­ing to watch train­ing ses­sions or par­tic­i­pate in camps or events could pay off in a big way, es­pe­cially if those fans come from abroad.

In­ter­na­tional trav­el­ers are the most cov­eted vis­i­tors, leav­ing more money in their wake than any other type of tourist. Den­ver In­ter­na­tional Air­port, which al­ready has di­rect flights to Lon­don, Frank­furt, and Reyk­javik, Ice­land, will add a di­rect flight to Mu­nich in May, bol­ster­ing the state’s ef­fort to grow in­ter­na­tional traf­fic.

“It’s a big deal,” said Tammy Fields, head of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment for the Colorado Springs Re­gional Busi­ness Al­liance. “Just hav­ing that op­por­tu­nity to ex­pose Colorado Springs to an in­ter­na­tional mar­ket and to soc­cer in gen­eral and build­ing a brand from that, we are ex­cited.”

Colorado Springs, with its U. S. Olympic Com­mit­tee and many Olympic gov­ern­ing body head­quar­ters, and Vail, with World Cup ski­ing, the U. S. A. Pro Chal­lenge, and an­nual lacrosse and vol­ley­ball ral­lies, are known world­wide as sport­ing lo­cales.

“This one is cer­tainly aligned with the Vail brand,” Vail Val­ley Part­ner­ship pres­i­dent Chris Romer said. “We’re em­brac­ing it and think it’s a great fit for the com­mu­nity as well as the state of Colorado.”

Rose, a one- time as­pir­ing pro- level player who has been work­ing on the Colorado Cup for three years, hopes the 13day soc­cer cel­e­bra­tion catches fire in Colorado.

He’s en­list­ing the state’s soc­cer- lov­ing kids and more than 30 soc­cer clubs to help fan the flames. He’s of­fer­ing dis­count tick­ets to clubs and teams that they can sell to gen­er­ate rev­enue.

Each ticket sold will help the Bun­desliga team’s own youth soc­cer acad­e­mies, part of JJR Con­sult­ing’s “Fund­ing Ones Free­dom” so­cial en­ter­prise, which sup­ports stu­dent ex­changes be­tween young Euro­pean soc­cer play­ers and U. S. soc­cer clubs.

“This is not just about a ball,” Rose said. “It’s about an ex­pe­ri­ence and learn­ing more about in­ter­na­tional cul­tures and lan­guages.”

Alex Grimm, Bon­garts/ Getty Im­ages

Ber­lin’s Mar­cel Nd­jeng, right, and Mainz 05’ s Zdenek Pospech each try to head the ball in a Bun­desliga­match at Co­face Arena in 2014 in Mainz, Ger­many. Mainz 05 will be in Colorado in July.

Mönchenglad­bach’s Marco Reus, right, scores. The team will be in Colorado in July. Lars Baron, Bon­garts/ Getty Im­ages

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