UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has once again said he is open to a discussion about playing significant Champions League games in the United States.
In an exclusive interview with Men In Blazers, Ceferin told Roger Bennett that he would not rule out holding a part of the most-watched annual football event in the world outside of Europe.
“It is possible [Champions league in U.S.],” Ceferin said. “We started to discuss about that, but then one year it is World Cup, 2024 is Euro, this year is Istanbul, ’24 in London, ’25 in Munich. And after that let’s see. It’s possible, it’s possible.”
In 2016, Ceferin first floated the idea of potential European club matches in season in the United States.
ESPN’s Gab Marcotti said the topic was discussed again last fall at UEFA ExCo meetings in Croatia and later at the European Club Association meetings in Istanbul.
Ceferin, however, told reporters back in September that no discussions about playing Champions League matches outside of Europe had been held.
“I would be aware if there was any discussion about the playing of Champions [League] matches outside of Europe and I don’t know anything with respect to that,” he told Europa Press.
This week, Ceferin told Bennett he understood the financial value of the U.S. sports market.
“Football is extremely popular in United States these days,” he added. “Americans are willing to pay this amount [gestures high with hand] for best and nothing for the less. So they will follow European football as basketball lovers in Europe follow NBA.
“It’s a very important promising market for the future. The thing is that we are selling rights very well. Sponsorship is so-so for now from the U.S., but here [in U.S.] commercialisation is completely different than in Europe. They [Americans] are much more talented for that than us [Europeans].”
Ceferin has boasted in the past that UEFA earns more than FIFA and the fiscal reports bear it out again in 2023 with a reported $6.9 billion in UEFA annual revenue, about three times the size of FIFA’s.
“Fans will still think in a way, these b—–ds in Switzerland, it’s all about money and I repeat thousand times, we redistribute 97% of the money [to the clubs and the nations],” he said. “Of course our revenues are huge. I would love them to be much, much bigger than now.”
Ceferin admitted that to that end, he sees the growth opportunities for U.S. TV rights.
“What shocked me actually is that our Euro  finals, Europe national team finals, was watched by more people in United States than NBA finals,” he said. “What shocked me is that 30 matches of the Euros, every match viewership was a Super Bowl viewership. So I think we are doing well.”
Euro 2020, delayed one year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, averaged 1.36 million viewers in the United States through all 51 matches and 8.2m viewers during the final.
“The problem is that the time difference, because if you play Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 3 o’clock ET, noon in LA Pacific part, it’s a problem,” he said. “We would have much bigger viewership if hours will be different.”
He said visiting the United States this year has made him aware of the sport’s growth and the increasing interest in the Champions League brand.
In 2022, UEFA signed a six-year, $1.5bn deal with CBS, Viacom and Paramount for U.S. television rights to its club competitions, including the Champions League.
The contract, which starts in 2024-25, also covers the Europa League and the Europa Conference League. Its $250m annual value is a significant increase from UEFA’s previous U.S. broadcast package, which brought in $100m per season.
Beginning in 2024-25, Champions League will switch to a 36-team, single-league format with each club playing 10 matches during the first round and the top eight teams advancing directly to the knockout stages. Clubs ranked between ninth and 24th will take part in a playoff round to earn a spot in the round-of-16 bracket.
The new deal will bring more football to the U.S. football market just as the 2026 World Cup will be played in the United States, in collaboration with Mexico and Canada.
The 2022 Champions League final featuring Real Madrid and Liverpool attracted a record 2.76m English-speaking viewers on CBS in the United States. The 2021 final between Chelsea and Manchester City drew 2.1m viewers on CBS.
Ceferin, who was re-elected unopposed for a fifth and final term in 2023, faced his biggest challenge in April 2021 when some of Europe’s top clubs attempted to form a European Super League.
The 55-year-old lawyer from Slovenia also led UEFA’s charge in opposing world football governing body FIFA’s plans to hold a World Cup every two years instead of every four.
Champions League matches in U.S. ‘possible’