Fitness and finance jostle for pre-season spotlight
Real Madrid and Barcelona square off in a rare overseas Clasico while Manchester United and Manchester City meet for the first time outside Britain as the world's leading clubs strive to optimise their pre-season preparations.
Pre-season tours have grown significantly in importance over the past decade as teams promote their brand visibility while simultaneously striving to ensure players are ready to hit the ground running.
Asia, Australia and the United States are popular destinations for the top clubs, but there is more to these trips than simply pitching up and kicking a ball. AC Milan and Borussia Dortmund kick off the International Champions Cup (ICC) in Guangzhou, China, on July 18, the first of 19 matches in a pre-season tournament featuring several of Europe's top clubs spread across three countries.
Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich then meet Arsenal in Shanghai before the Gunners take on Premier League champions Chelsea in Beijing.
"What I really stress whenever somebody comes out here is that the game is probably actually the least important part.
It's really just 90 minutes," Tom Elsden, senior client manager with Shanghai-based Mailman Group, said. "You can't expect to come out here on a China tour or do one deal and you've made it. It's a continuous commitment to this market.
"You need to come out every year or other year to continue that connection with fans, relationships with sponsors and grassroots initiatives. It's a long-term play." Elsden, whose company handles the China digital marketing presence for a range of internationally known players, clubs and leagues, adds: "In China, this is still the first generation of real sports fans. So teams can come out here for the next five, 10, 15 years and pull in a fan that has no natural allegiance."