The European Super League (ESL) was a short-lived concept. One question that has been asked a lot over the week was why certain clubs were included? A primary reason is that these clubs are in demand internationally.
One way of gaining insight to international demand is to consider elite clubs in their off-season. Increasingly, the founding ESL members have developed elaborate pre/post season tours in locations such as China, North America and Australia. Gone are the days of a pre-season tour in Ireland to limber up for the season ahead. These are now brand building exercises.
Although tour fixtures are widely perceived as meaningless friendlies, in the sense that no championship points or highly-regarded honours are at stake, big European clubs continue to attract significant turnouts. Over the years attempts have been made to make pre-season friendlies more competitive (e.g. International Champions Cup) but on the surface, international fans appear to resonate to the stars coming to town rather than outcome uncertainty.
I think the powers that be really cracked it when they realised they must export the European fixture. While the international fan likes to see their home club take on a giant of the sport, attending a Champions League level fixture is really appealing. For example, the Michigan stadium hosted Manchester United vs. Real Madrid in 2014, Chelsea vs. Real Madrid in 2016 and Liverpool vs. Manchester United in 2018; each fixture took place in front of over 100,000 spectators. This is happening for a while now. Over a decade ago Chelsea took on Inter Milan in the Rose Bowl in front of circa 80,000 fans.
I have attendance data on 241 (non-European) international fixtures for fourteen major European clubs who regularly go on tour outside of Europe. The fixtures took place across thirteen countries, in over one hundred stadia between 2009 and 2019. The table below displays two descriptive statistics by club. Note these averages do not control for the type of opposition (local vs European competitor). Barcelona and Real Madrid top the list for highest average turnout. Many of the 12 ESL founders feature. The maximum attendances give some insight of the appeal of even inconsequential matches internationally.