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London Calling: Why the Chicago White Sox should volunteer to play in the UK

Major League Baseball intends to play a few games across the pond, and this is an excellent opportunity for the White Sox to expand their market.

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London's Olympic Stadium could host baseball games as soon as 2018.
London's Olympic Stadium could host baseball games as soon as 2018.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

If you are still a bit confused on what the new collective bargain agreement brings, I highly recommend checking out Jeff Passan's recent piece on Yahoo! Sports. While we wait to see the remaining details impacting draft pick compensation and the international market, it does seem that Major League Baseball is hell bent on playing more games outside of the country.

"With international play a priority written into the CBA, it wouldn't surprise anyone to see a regular-season Yankees-Red Sox matchup in London at some point in the near future."

London is one rumored (or in this case, rumoured) destination, and so is Mexico City. That destination would make more sense since they have baseball stadiums. With the recent success of hosting a Monday Night football game, one can expect only sold out crowds if say the Los Angeles Dodgers hosted a three-game series in Mexico's capital. It would be easy to market the game to a fan base who already loves the game with players Adrian Gonzalez and Mexican-born Julio Urias taking part in it.

Hosting a game in London would be tricky logistically. For starters, the series would have to be before Opening Day to allow players to acclimate to the time change and allow enough days rest to recover when coming home. MLB did that when the Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks in 2014 played in Sydney, Australia. Both teams were given a week off before joining the rest of the league in Opening Day.

The next difficulty to overcome is where to play the games. In Australia, they converted the Sydney Cricket Ground to a playing field that hosted 80,000 fans for the two games. When London hosted the Summer Olympics in 2012, baseball was dropped from the Olympics, so there was no need to build a facility to host games. There is the option of converting a cricket field to host games, but in September, London's Mayor Sadiq Khan pitched the idea to New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon, to host games at Olympic Stadium. Currently, home to the Premiership club, West Ham United, the facility is an oval shape and seats can be relocated giving MLB flexibility in converting it for baseball.

With the Mayor's support and eagerness to host games, it comes down to who will be selected to play in London. The Mets were pitched on the idea, but in recent light of the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series, this could be an excellent opportunity for the White Sox to help expand their market. Also, who better than "The Sodfather" Roger Bossard to assist in the field conversion.

It's a bitter pill to swallow, but at the moment, the Sox are not relevant. We saw this during coverage of the World Series when ESPN forgot 2005 happened. All of the recent press about the ballclub is the imminent sell-off of Chris Sale and others as the team prepares for a rebuild. It could be years before the White Sox are a winning ballclub again and merit any attention.

Volunteering as a tribute would be a good move for the Sox to sacrifice a home series to play host in London. Here are three opponents that I think would make sense to play in London:

  1. New York Yankees - This is an obvious choice. The Yankees are a global brand and having the most famous team in London would draw the most attention. One of the negatives is the Sox would lose a home series that tends to draw very well for them. Since 2012, the average attendance has been 27,147 on the South Side for Yankees vs. White Sox.

  1. Detroit Tigers - MLB used an inter-divisional series for their last overseas road trip and could go that route again. The Tigers have the old English "D" and if Justin Verlander is still around, Kate Upton will be in the stands. I'm sure the British paparazzi would have fun with that.

  1. Cleveland Indians - I think this would be the best option. The Indians are going to be one of the best teams in the league and have budding superstar Francisco Lindor to showcase. Can pair Lindor with Tim Anderson to promote two of the game's best young shortstops (knock on wood for Anderson) on display.

    Another benefit and this goes for both sides, is that when the Sox and Indians get together, it is often not a well-attended event. Since 2012, the White Sox are averaging 17,830 fans attending games against the Indians. In 2015, not a single home contest against Cleveland drew more than 20,000 fans.

If the games in London have the same enthusiasm as Sydney, we could see 40,000+ fans in the seats per game. It would provide an atmospheric buzz that this rivalry hasn't seen in years.

Maybe it's a crazy idea and one that White Sox fans would resist losing out on three home games. However, if participating in MLB's quest to expand the game globally earns a few more fans for the bandwagon, why not do it? Have to try anything to encourage excitement for this franchise, whether at home or abroad.