Philadelphia Phillies boss Rob Thomson hopes MLB London Series ‘lasts forever’

Philadelphia Phillies manager Rob Thomson wants Major League Baseball to make London an annual pilgrimage just as the NFL has enjoyed long-term success in the English capital.

Thomson’s National League East-leading Phillies take on division rivals the New York Mets at London Stadium this weekend in the third edition of the London Series, a stop on MLB’s ‘World Tour’ they hope will help propel ‘America’s pastime’ into new global markets.

Two more MLB teams will travel to London in 2026, after which future trips across the pond remain an optimistic uncertainty.

Thomson said: “I hope [the London Series] lasts forever, to tell you the truth. I think this is a great experience for everyone.

“I think growing the sport all over the world, having competitive baseball in every country in the world, the sport’s only going to be better.

“This is a great facility, it seems like the people of Great Britain have really taken to this, and they come out, it’s a great experience.

“It’s been fantastic. We had a little reception last night at the Tower of London, and then we found out that there was a Philly bar, so [we thought] ‘let’s head over’ and we had a great time.”

Make no mistake – despite the sightseeing, both teams are taking Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon’s regular-season matches very seriously.

The Phillies take on division rivals the New York Mets in a two-game series
The Phillies take on division rivals the New York Mets in a two-game series (Zac Goodwin/PA)

The Phillies, World Series champions in 1980 and 2008 and runners-up in 2022, sit seven-and-a-half games clear of the Atlanta Braves, second in the NL East, having played 63 of MLB’s gruelling 162-game season.

The Mets sit 16.5 games behind this weekend’s opponents having played one game fewer and are coming off a three-game sweep of the Washington Nationals following a slump that saw them win just nine of their 28 games in May.

Thomson said his organisation has done “everything we can” to ensure the Phillies have the best chance of maintaining their momentum and are not disrupted by the six-hour time difference, arriving via a plane boasting “100-something lay-down seats”.

Two weeks ago the Phillies flew out to Colorado, then made their way to San Francisco to face the Giants before returning back east to host the St Louis Cardinals – who featured alongside the Chicago Cubs in last year’s London Series – and the Milwaukee Brewers.

By the time they return from London, the Phillies will have crossed 18 time zones since May 23, when they departed for the Rockies road trip.

According to reports, MLB has so far struck out on plans to stage a series in Paris next season after failing to find a suitable promoter, while teams are yet to be announced for the last currently-scheduled London match-up in two years’ time.

The future of the London Series – and other international games – will depend on the outcome of negotiations between MLB and its powerful player union, the MLBPA, with the current collective bargaining agreement expiring in 2026.

Keeping players and managers enthusiastic about the idea of a cross-continental competition, then, will be paramount should MLB decide the British experiment is worth fighting for.

Mets pitcher Sean Manaea, who is set to start for New York on Saturday night, is adamant that, despite the toll on players, the pay-off is there.

He said: “I’m all for it. I love travelling, being tired. The grind is part of the process, and the only way to expand the game, grow the game, it’s healthy for it.

“Being able to play baseball in a different country, city, it’s so cool and special to me. Even though it is a little hard at times, it’s definitely worth it.”