Christian Pulisic and the American Expansion Project of the Premier League
- The signing of Christian Pulisic by Chelsea marks the start of a new chapter in the Premier League' s attempts to conquer America.
For many years, one of the key aims of Premier League chiefs has been to expand their brand into the United States, a country which is seen to be the most lucrative new market around for consumerism of the Premier League brand. The signing of 20-year-old American wonder-kid Christian Pulisic by Chelsea, for a reported £58 million, is a major step towards achieving this vision.
In the past decade, in particular, a number of American players have played in the Premier League, with varying degrees of success. Clint Dempsey, Brad Friedel, and Landon Donovan are among the most notable of these. However, no American player has ever been a true superstar within the ranks of one of the biggest clubs in the world's most popular league.
Since breaking into the first team at German Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund in March 2016, at the age of 17, Pulisic has come to be seen as the great hope of the American National team. As such, emboldened by his price tag, the expectation is that Pulisic will now take the Premier League by storm when he officially becomes a Chelsea player in July 2019.
The marketability of Pulisic was a major reason why Chelsea was prepared to pay such a premium for the contract of their latest acquisition. With over 1.4 million followers on Instagram, and commercial contracts with major businesses such as Electronic Arts and Nike, the starlet comes with a major potential to assist the growth of Chelsea themselves as a brand.
His unique selling point is that, unlike other players who may boast similar followerships and endorsement deals, Pulisic offers a largely unique opportunity to give Chelsea an opening into the market seen as the Holy Grail for Premier League clubs: the United States.
Similar attempts to make moves into these so-called "expansion markets", such as Manchester United's signing of Dong Fangzhuo in 2004, have generally ended in failure. Dong, whose signing was primarily motivated by his potential profile in China, went on to make only one solitary appearance in the four years that he spent at United.
Pulisic is different to his above-mentioned predecessors in that regard. He has not been signed by Chelsea for commercial reasons alone, with his obvious talent as a young footballer being his most desirable attribute, above marketing attractions.
The inaugural Kopa Trophy for the best player in the world under the age of 21, presented in early December 2018 at France Football's Ballon d'Or awards, saw Pulisic awarded second place, behind only Kylian Mbappe of Paris Saint-Germain and France. This shows the high regard in which Pulisic's footballing ability is held, with the award's judging panel consisting entirely of former winners of the Ballon d'Or itself.
Barring injury or other outside factors, Christian Pulisic will make his Premier League debut for Chelsea in August 2019. This will mark the start of what vast numbers of Americans hope will be a journey culminating in their countryman reaching the pinnacle of the Premier League.
This hope will, less publicly, be shared by many of the leading figures in the Premier League's administrative headquarters: the interest in Pulisic could be the catalyst for the Premier League's dreams of expansion into the United States to finally be fully realized.