Warde Manuel discusses international soccer match at Michigan Stadium
Ann Arbor — Michigan Stadium holds the record for the largest crowd in the United States to watch a soccer match, and for the second time in three years will host a major international soccer event.
Records are meant to be broken, right?
Michigan Stadium will get a chance to make that attempt this summer.
Michigan will host Real Madrid and Chelsea in an International Champions Cup soccer match on July 30 at 3 p.m., it was confirmed Thursday morning at a news conference at Michigan’s Crisler Center. All of the games in the ICC series will be televised by ESPN or ESPN2.
“It’s an exciting opportunity for our community,” Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said Thursday. “We are excited. We are looking forward to a tremendous matchup and opportunity.
“It’s a unique crowd, it’s a great atmosphere even on TV, very energized, passionate — we love that. We have very passionate fans as well, so we understand that.”
Michigan Stadium hosted Real Madrid and Manchester United in an ICC match on Aug. 2, 2014 and attracted 109,318 fans, the largest crowd for a soccer match in the U.S.
Relevent Sports, the promoter of the international soccer series, is part of RSE Ventures, co-founded by Stephen Ross, a Michigan alum and major donor to the university and also the athletic department.
It was important for Ross to have a soccer presence again this summer at Michigan Stadium, and certainly organizers hope to set a new U.S. soccer attendance record.
“This is the biggest stadium we can possibly play in and we’ve put a matchup here that we expect to fill the stadium,” Charlie Stillitano, chairman of Relevent Sports, said Thursday. “These are two of the most storied teams in Europe now. These are two of the best teams on earth, two of the richest teams on earth.
“We wanted to bring one of the best matchups we have here to Michigan because if you have a lesser matchup you’re going to go to a smaller stadium and hope you fill that up. Mr. Ross said, ‘I want the biggest, best game we can possibly have at the University of Michigan.’ It’s important to him because it is a showcase to the world.”
Stillitano said photographs of a filled Michigan Stadium from the soccer match in 2014 appeared in publications across the world.
“I will tell you how crazy it gets — the paper in Spain doctored the picture to take out the red shirts and make them all white and the first thing the English press did was send around the actual photo,” he said. “What’s front page of every paper in the world? The University of Michigan and the stadium.”
Event organizers will cover the Michigan Stadium FieldTurf with a “geotech fabric” that protects the turf. A thick layer of sod will be placed on top of that.
Stillitano on why it's important to have a soccer match at Michigan Stadium
“It’s a little trickier than that,” Stillitano said. “For us it’s an expensive process but one the teams demand because almost all their fields are grass.”
Manuel, who has been on the job as Michigan’s athletic director for 10 days, said he will be open to utilizing Michigan Stadium for other sporting events. The stadium has successfully hosted an NHL game and a college hockey game.
“We want to have the best events, not only in this country but in the world,” Manuel said. “We consider this an opportunity to showcase the University of Michigan to the world and that is a great opportunity for us. But this is not something we’re out selling and soliciting, but where there are great partners that can bring these significant events and we can partner with them, we’re always open to that discussion.”
Ticket prices for the Real Madrid-Chelsea match begin at $55. Michigan donors and suite holders, faculty and staff will have priority access to tickets during an exclusive presale on March 29. There will be a digital community sale on March 31 and the general public will have access to tickets on April 5 at 8:30 a.m. by visiting MGoBlue.com/tickets. For more information on the entire soccer series, visit InternationalChampionsCup.com.