Mainz finished sixth in the Bundesliga season, earning themselves a spot in the Europa League group stages. But Die Nullfünfer are tangibly demonstrating that their ambitions are greater than an occasional Europa League spot.
In July, Mainz will make its first trip to the United States, as they will train in Colorado Springs from July 9-16. Coach Martin Schmidt and his club will play local USL PRO club Colorado Springs Switchbacks in the Freedom Cup on July 12, and Mexican side UDG Leones Negros on July 13 in the Colorado Cup. Leones Negros won Ascenso MX (Mexico’s 2nd division) in the Apertura 2013, gaining promotion to Liga MX, the nation’s top league, before being demoted again. Mainz’ two friendly opponents will be far ahead of the 05ers in match fitness and will provide a good test for Schmidt’s club, as the Switchbacks are in the middle of their season and Leones Negroso begin their new Ascenso MX season on Friday July 15 against UAEM Portros. Mainz begin their training days before departing for the United States.
Mainz, looking to build its footprint in North America, will bring members of its youth coaching system and conduct training camps for youth in Vail and the Springs during their week-long visit, with youth all-star matches preceding the two friendlies. The opportunity to share its training philosophy and techniques firsthand with local coaches and youth players is an important part of Mainz’ trip. For Mainz, the chance for its squad to train in Colorado, where the US Olympic Committee has its training center and the US Air Force has its academy, provided great incentive for the club to come to America for the first time.
The big summer for Mainz continues with a visit from former coach Jurgen Klopp and his Liverpool FC. Klopp and his iconic club will face the 05ers in a friendly on August 7 at the newly renamed Opel Arena, formerly known as the Coface Arena. Kloppo, born in Stuttgart, was a longtime Mainz player, featuring in over 325 matches for the club between 1990 and 2001 as a defender but also playing in the striker role. Klopp began coaching the club in 2001 and led Mainz to promotion to the Bundesliga following the 2003/2004 season. Under Klopp’s direction, Mainz also made the UEFA Cup (forerunner of today’s Europa League) for the first time as Germany’s “Fair Play” nominee. Klopp left Mainz for Dortmund in 2008, where his reputation grew further by winning two Bundesliga titles and making the Champions League finals, and took over at LFC last October. Loris Karius, recently Mainz #1 goalkeeper, will also be along after signing with LFC earlier this summer.
Sandwiched between Mainz’ visit to Colorado and the big LFC friendly, the 05ers have also announced that they will have a second training camp in Italy. Schmidt’s club will be training in Valle d’Aosta from July 30 to August 6th and will play friendlies on August 3rd and 4th, with the opponents yet to be named.
This is an important summer for Mainz. The club hopes to build on its Europa League appearance and get through the group stages while maintaining a strong presence in the Bundesliga. Longtime Sporting Director Christian Heidel, who has earned much credit for Mainz’ success, is gone to Schalke, replaced by Rouven Schröder, 40, the former Bochum defender who has since retirement worked for Bochum, Nurnberg, Greuther Furth and Werder Bremen in roles that include assistant coach, scout and sporting director.
And in addition to losing Karius to a bigger club, Mainz have also lost star central midfielder Julilan Baumgartlinger to Bayer Leverkusen. But Schröder has already taken steps to buoy the Mainz squad, signing the intriguing Danish goalkeeper Jonas Lössl from EA Guingamp as well as making last season’s loanees and key contributors, Jhon Cordoba and Christian Clemens permanent members of the club. In a radio interview a few days ago, Schröder stated that Mainz are looking for midfield help, perhaps even a player from MLS.
All in all, it will be a big summer for Mainz and its fans. With a new sporting director, a new goalkeeper, a new sponsor for its stadium and trips to the United States and Italy along with a visit from Liverpool the club is doing all in its power to prepare for a successful 2016/2017 season.
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