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La Liga remain 'optimistic' game will be played in United States this season

With reports that Girona are set to face Barcelona in Miami this coming January, the FC crew share their varying opinions on La Liga coming to the U.S.
Lionel Messi talks about one day leaving Barcelona, their aims for this season and rates the new signings.

La Liga and Relevent Sports are confident that their plans to move a regular-season game to the United States will be approved.

Fan groups in Spain are against the proposal to play a game overseas as part of the 15-year deal signed by La Liga and Relevent to promote the league in North America, but players are unanimously against it and have not ruled out going on strike.

Girona said on Thursday they are finalising a proposal to play their game against Barcelona, set for Jan. 27, in the U.S., reportedly in Miami.

"I'm not certain but I'm optimistic," Charlie Stillitano, Relevent's executive chairman, told ESPN FC. "We have every desire to do it and La Liga has given us every indication that they want to do it. We are trying to be respectful to everyone involved. We're confident that it can happen and we are just taking a wait-and-see attitude because they have to get all the permissions from the league side first before we can do anything."

La Liga president Javier Tebas is also confident the game will be played and plans to meet with David Aganzo, the president of the Spanish Footballers' Association (AFE), next week.

"We know it's a complicated issue but we are working so that it can materialise and I think it will be done," Tebas told Onda Cero radio. "The AFE agreement will not be achieved via a financial compensation."

Asked about a possible players' strike, Tebas believes there is no reason for it.

"With the wage control we have implemented, it has raised [players'] salaries by 66 percent," he said.

But Tebas acknowledged there are still many hurdles to clear with respect to holding the game in the United States.

"We have to ask permission to the Spanish FA [RFEF], UEFA, U.S. Soccer, CONCACAF and the [Spanish sports council]," he said. "We first want to sort out the issue of fans and players. Once that is done, we will start asking for those permits, including that of the RFEF. I'm hoping they will not raise objections. I want to speak to [president Luis] Rubiales on Tuesday or Wednesday."

Fans of the team giving up the home game will be compensated for missing out on a home game, Tebas said, with up to 1,500 of them, including season-ticket holders, having their travel and accommodation subsidised.

"Many La Liga teams have offered to play in the United States," Tebas said. "It's an important opportunity for them and it's not an obligation to play in the United States, it's voluntary -- only the clubs that want to go will do so. What we are looking to do is to enter and place ourselves in the American market, which is very important."

Tebas has ruled out Real Madrid and Barcelona playing a home game overseas as well as having more than one game per season played in the United States.

"It's not viable that the home team of that game that will be played overseas will be a team that has a huge social mass following," he said. "I can assure you that in the next five years, only one game will be played annually in the United States."

Stillitano, meanwhile, has applauded La Liga's decision to expand its brand and hopes other European leagues will follow.

"La Liga has been consistently for the past 10 years, and the Spanish national team, have been amongst the best in the world, so for them to build their brand outside of Spain is a smart thing," he said. "Ultimately, it's going to come back to benefit La Liga.

"The Premier League is far and away the No. 1 commercial league on the planet and the only thing that rivals it is the NBA and the NFL, realistically. And they are in an enviable position. ... But you could see Serie A or Ligue 1 [doing it]. There have been leagues that have expressed interest to us and they have said they think what La Liga is doing is really good to expand football over here."

ESPN's Charlie Gibson contributed to this report

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