By Alejandro Zúñiga, Daily Sports Editor
Published July 29, 2014
CHICAGO — Saturday’s International Champions Cup soccer match between Real Madrid and Manchester United likely won’t be the last major non-football event hosted at Michigan Stadium, Associate Athletic Director Dave Ablauf said Tuesday.
However, the Athletic Department isn’t currently in the process of exploring other uses for the nation’s largest college-owned stadium, Ablauf said.
“Not at this point,” he said. “But I’m sure something will crop up that may pique the interest of everyone.”
Over the weekend, crews began outfitting the Big House for soccer ahead of Saturday’s clash. The game, though a preseason friendly for both clubs, could feature some of the world’s elite players, including reigning FIFA Balon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo and World Cup megastar and Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez.
That spectacle made the International Champions Cup feasible tenants of Michigan Stadium, and Ablauf said a similarly selective process will be used for other potential events.
“We don’t want to just casually pick up any event, but we absolutely want to be able to host major sporting events,” he said. “We want to be able to provide the fans of Michigan … with opportunities to see these types of events.”
Ablauf also said he expects the contest will set a new attendance record for a soccer game in the United States. The current record stands at 101,799, when France beat Brazil in the 1984 Olympic final at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
Michigan Stadium has a capacity of 109,901 for football games, though fewer tickets were available for Saturday’s match because the teams’ benches will occupy space in the stands.
“You’re going to see a great atmosphere in Ann Arbor, and it’s going to be fantastic,” Ablauf said.
Previously, the Big House has played host to collegiate and professional hockey, and Guinness World Records recognizes the 2010 “Big Chill” for holding the attendance mark at a hockey game. It drew 104,173 for a meeting between Michigan and Michigan State.
There were fireworks and a flyover during the Big Chill, and Ablauf said the Athletic Department will continue to provide luxuries that make games must-see-in-person events.
“Like (Athletic Director Dave Brandon) has always talked about, entertaining fans, keeping them engaged is something you need to do in today’s day and age,” he said. “You want to provide them with some entertainment that makes it unique (and) that you can’t get on a television.”