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Soccer fans excited about Comerica match but want more

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — This was good, two popular European soccer teams, a festive atmosphere at Comerica Park and around downtown Detroit.

But it only wet the appetite for fans like Mike Bishop.

As far as Bishop is concerned — as well as many other fans Wednesday around Comerica Park — it’s time to bring professional soccer to Detroit.

“We haven’t had a pro team for so long,” said Bishop, from Dearborn, whose only disappointment Wednesday was not seeing his beloved Manchester United playing at Comerica Park. “You see what (semi-pro team) Detroit City (FC) is doing, how many people are at those games, the interest is there.

“Look at how many people came to Ann Arbor a few years ago (for an exhibition match between Manchester United and Real Madrid). Detroit wants soccer. I want soccer.”

Wednesday’s match between AS Roma and Paris Saint-Germain was expected to draw 30,000-35,000 fans. It was part of the International Champions Cup, an 8-team round-robin exhibition.

The games are taking place in the next two weeks in 11 U.S. stadiums, with Detroit of particular interest.

Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores, two local NBA owners, are leading the charge to bring an expansion Major League Soccer (MLS) team to Detroit

Gilbert and Gores want to build an approximately 25,000-seat stadium with mixed-use development in time for the 2020 MLS season on the unfinished Wayne County jail site on Gratiot and I-375.

The MLS is expected to award four expansion teams — two this year, two in the near future.

If Wednesday’s match was a bit of a litmus test, the Detroit market is ready for pro soccer.

“It would be awesome, it would create a diversity of sports (in the Detroit market),” said Jason Watts, of Clarkston. “The fans would go (support a pro team). I could see myself going to about 10 games (per season), for sure.

“There’s a lot of reasons this area is ready (for a pro team). Soccer is a world sport, the only true world sport. We have people from all over the world living here.

“I’ve been to Detroit City (FC) matches. I’ve seen how excited those fans are.”

Fans would like to see a pro team with its own facility in downtown Detroit — but also wouldn’t mind seeing Detroit City FC somehow a part of it.

The raucous atmosphere and passionate fan base combine to form the closest thing Detroit sports fans have seen to a European soccer atmosphere.

“I don’t know if it’s possible (for Detroit City to be part of an MLS bid), but that would be ideal,” said Bridget Goolsby, of Detroit, who attended Wednesday’s match with her boyfriend just one day after watching Detroit City play an exhibition match in Hamtramck against an Italian club team. “The matches are so fun, so different.

“If they could put that excitement into the new (soccer) stadium, it would be a lot of fun.”

With the Tigers the lone pro sports attraction for much of the summer, soccer would fill a void for fans.

“You look at all the kids playing the game, so many people have grown up with it locally,” said Walter Sipkow, of Plymouth, with his two Paris Saint-Germain loving teenage sons. “It would be a great complement for fans who aren’t necessarily baseball fans.”

Liam Moylan might qualify as one of those sports fans, a native of Galway, Ireland, who spends his weekends watching European soccer from his Dearborn home.

“And I text my brother back in Ireland about whether he’s watching, and he said they aren’t televising them back there,” said Moylan, who along with his friend Bishop was mourning the absence Manchester United at Comerica Park. “We get to watch more soccer right here.

“I see such an upside for it (soccer) here. You have people from countries all over the world in this area. Their favorite sport is soccer. It’s what they love.

“A team here would be so successful.”


twitter.com: @tkulfan