Detroit City FC, Manchester club share common bonds

Larry O'Connor
The Detroit News
FC United of Manchester players practice Friday at Keyworth Stadium ahead of Saturday's match against Detroit City FC.

More bonds Detroit City FC and FC United of Manchester than the 3,611 miles and vast Atlantic Ocean that separates the two clubs.

The teams meet in an international friendly at 3 p.m. Saturday at Keyworth Stadium. About 6,000 to 7,000 are expected to attend, Detroit City FC’s Alex Wright said.

“When you consider the other game that is happening tomorrow: The Champions League final (Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid), I don't think you can have a better contrast for the soccer world than that match and our match,” Wright said.

Detroit FC and FC United’s kindred spirit starts with a respective can-do mentality.

Wright, one of the five Detroit City FC owners, met with FC United founders Dominic Sagar four years ago. The pair found common ground on how football / soccer can be catalyst for change over beer at The Lager House in Corktown.

“From that, the seeds for a future match were sown,” Wright said.

Sagar, an architect, is an impassioned music aficionado who authored an article, “Tales of Two Cities: ‘King Cotton’ & ‘Motor City,’” for the team’s match program, drawing numerous artistic, social and cultural links between the two industrial hubs.

“I’ve always been fascinated by Detroit because the musical connections are just phenomenal,” said Sagar said. “The rock ‘n’ roll, the jazz, northern soul … it’s a long long story. I’m so emotional about it.

“The parallels are so similar.”

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FC United of Manchester formed in 2005 as a protest by fans, sparked by the takeover of Manchester United by American Malcolm Glazer.

While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner’s acquisition of a beloved institution was the fuse, FC United’s formation was a protest against corporate greed, high ticket prices and overall commercialization that had infiltrated the world’s game.

FC United of Manchester commenced as a non-profit outfit in the lower rungs on England’s non-league soccer pyramid.

In 11 years since, FC United has climbed the soccer semi-professional ladder through three consecutive promotions to the National League North, two tiers below the English professional flight. The club has done so with the same manager at the helm, Karl Marginson.

“It’s not a football club, it’s a belief,” said Marginson, watching FC United practice Friday at Keyworth Stadium.

FC United, or FCUM as it is known, averages 2,000 regularly at home matches, well above the National League North average. After years of ground sharing, the team opened its own stadium – 4,400-capacity Broadhurst Park – this season, having raised 2 million pounds ($2.9 million U.S.) through a community share issue.

The club touts itself as “owned and democratically run by its 5,381 members.”  In that egalitarian theme, FC United is a living wage campaign employer, has “pay what you can afford” season-ticket plans, and has warm coat drives for the needy and other charitable endeavors.

Fans cheer the DCFC goal during the 1-1 draw with AFC Ann Arbor last Friday at Keyworth Stadium.

Ditto for Detroit FC, which shares many of those core community-based beliefs.

DCFC works with Detroit PAL, has done a fundraiser for the Wounded Warriors Project and Holigans for Heroes in concert with its Northern Guard supporter group, partnered with the United Way for its “No Kid Goes Hungry” program, and gave new uniforms to Cass Tech’s girls soccer program.

DCFC raised more than $741,000 through a crowd-funding initiative to help renovate 80-year old Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck.

DCFC’s ascent has not been measured in league promotion – there is no promotion or relegation in U.S. soccer – as much as by attendance, which has steadily surged. Le Rouge outgrew its first home, Detroit Cass Tech High, where the team routinely drew crowds of 3,000.

Last week, Detroit soccer had a milestone event when a club-record 7,400 fans turned out to see a 1-1 draw against AFC Ann Arbor.

“The eyes of the soccer world are on us,” Wright said. “Detroit is already a city people are talking about in the soccer world because of recent announcements (about a possible Major League Soccer franchise). So all this interest is focused right here.

“I can’t think of a better place for it to be focused on than a match against a team from Manchester that shares our values."

International friendly

What: Detroit City FC vs. FC United of Manchester

When: 3 p.m. Saturday

Where: Keyworth Stadium, 3201 Roosevelt Street, Hamtramck

Tickets: $20, available at until two hours before kickoff

Live streaming:

Notable: Former Manchester United great Steve Coppell will join Neal Ruhl in the booth for the live stream of the match.