In 2014, the International Champions Cup came to Ann Arbor and broke the U.S. soccer attendance record. This summer, the tournament will return and try to break it again.
European soccer powerhouses Real Madrid and Chelsea will play as part of the fourth annual tournament on July 30 at 3 p.m. at Michigan Stadium.
Real Madrid also played in the first International Champions Cup match at Michigan Stadium, when a record crowd of 109,318 watched them beat Manchester United, 3-1. Two years later, the tournament’s return to the Big House is a natural fit. After all, the parent company of Relevent Sports, which runs the tournament, was co-founded by real-estate mogul and University donor Stephen M. Ross.
“I just wanted to say I really didn’t have a choice to come,” said Relevent Sports chairman Charlie Stillitano in a press conference Thursday morning. “Because Mr. Ross said if you don’t have a game at University of Michigan this year, you’re in trouble. So I value my job, and the kids want to go to school, so I said, ‘Let’s do it.’
“All kidding aside, it was important for his alma mater for us to be here, and we’ve had our most spectacular game that we’ve ever had here two years ago with Real Madrid and Manchester United.”
Michigan Athletic Director Warde Manuel, who assumed his position March 14, announced the deal in just his second week. In a meeting with Ross shortly after he was introduced in January, Ross told him that talks could start soon. Manuel said that having the 2014 match in Ann Arbor helped secure the contract this time around with mutual interest.
For the biggest stadium available, Relevent Sports sought the most popular matchup it could find in order to fill the stadium.
“We want 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,” Stillitano said. “But this was a matchup, when we were talking to Mr. Ross, he said, ‘You guys are the soccer guys, but I want the biggest, best game we could possibly have at the University of Michigan.’ ”
He added a quip about the competition with Ohio Stadium, which will host Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain on July 27.
“We have another game south of here at a slightly smaller stadium,” Stillitano said. “There’s rumor that they want to put some extra seats in there. There’s some little rivalry going on between the team in Ohio and the team here that I understand.”
Tickets for the game at Michigan Stadium will go on sale to major Michigan donors March 29, to all donors March 30, to digital insiders March 31 and to the general public April 5 at 8:30 a.m.