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September 22, 2017

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Van Gaal's United debut leads US 'invasion'

WASHINGTON -- Fifty years after the Beatles launched a British musical "invasion" of America, English soccer clubs are playing pre-season matches in the United States hoping to spark growth for the sport.

Premier League sides Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City will combine to play 16 matches on U.S. soil in a follow on to strong American interest in the World Cup.

"Football is growing here, particularly after the World Cup, and every time you come over you see it's getting bigger," Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney told the team's website. "It's incredible to see the number of fans who turn up to cheer us on. The crowds will be really good."

More than 55,000 watched as hosts Seattle drew 3-3 with Spurs in Saturday's friendly, but the biggest and best events are yet to come.

New manager Louis van Gaal kicks off his reign at Manchester United this week when the Reds visit the Los Angeles Galaxy, already in the middle of their Major League Soccer season, on Wednesday to kick off their U.S. tour.

The 62-year-old Dutchman, who replaced the sacked David Moyes, guides United in the States after directing the Netherlands to a third-place finish at the World Cup earlier this month, leaving barely a break in between assignments.

"That's no problem for me. I don't need a holiday," van Gaal said. "It's great to have such an exciting challenge. To work daily with young people is something that I don't need time off to rest for. I'm looking forward to it.

"I'll do my best. Whether that's enough for the fans I will wait and see, but I genuinely hope that will be the case."

Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City will play in the International Champions Cup, a collection of pre-season matches between top European clubs all preparing for the start of their domestic campaigns.

Manchester United will play AS Roma on Saturday in Denver, meet Inter Milan on July 29 in Washington and face Real Madrid on August 2 in suburban Detroit before a sold-out Michigan Stadium crowd of about 110,000, the largest U.S. crowd ever for the sport.

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