By Andrew Downie
SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Corinthians are to visit the United States on a pre-season tour in 2015, in an attempt by the Brazilian side to both prepare for the new football season and promote the club in markets outside their homeland.
The 2012 World Club Cup champions will spend almost two weeks in Florida and take part in the Florida Cup, a four-team tournament that will also feature Fluminense, and German sides Bayer Leverkusen and Cologne.
Corinthians will spend their first few days training at the Fort Lauderdale Strikers' home base before moving to Orlando to play Cologne on Jan. 15. They then head to Jacksonville to take on Leverkusen two days later.
The trip is primarily to prepare players for the start of the Brazilian season, which runs from late January until early December.
But the club, which recently signed a marketing deal with 20th Century Fox International which sees The Simpsons stickers adorn their team bus and the cartoon characters wearing Corinthians shirts, also wants to expand its commercial reach.
"For a long time now the club has been looking for an opportunity to promote itself in the U.S.," said Edu Gaspar, the former Arsenal player who is now Corinthians Director of Football.
"We have managed to find an important competition with clubs that are equally important and under conditions that suit us."
Florida is the most popular destination for Brazilian tourists to the United States, and Cruzeiro, Fluminense and Sao Paulo all trained and played friendlies there this year.
Sao Paulo have particularly close ties to Orlando City, with the Florida club, whose owner is Brazilian, lending them Kaka and agreeing to play them in a friendly early next year.
Although Brazilian clubs are renowned for their conveyor belt of talent, most of them are light-years behind the Europeans and North Americans when it comes to marketing and commerce.
No Brazilian side features in Deloitte's Money League of the top 20 grossing clubs although Corinthians are the only non-European club to make the top 30.
(Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Ossian Shine)