- Adam Glanzman/Daily
By Alejandro Zúñiga, Daily Sports Editor
Published February 20, 2014
Note: This story was updated Feb. 21 to include a statement from an International Champions Cup spokesperson to the Daily.
The beautiful game could finally be coming to Ann Arbor.
Thursday afternoon, the International Champions Cup sent an e-mail promoting “the Gods of Soccer” visiting Ann Arbor, among 11 other North American cities.
The International Champions Cup pits some of the world’s elite clubs in an elimination tournament. This year, the competition features Real Madrid, Manchester United, Inter Milan, A.C. Milan, Olympiacos, Manchester City, AS Roma and Liverpool FC.
Though the e-mail did not confirm the clubs or venue in Ann Arbor, it coincides with a Jan 31 report that Manchester United and Real Madrid will meet Aug. 2 at Michigan Stadium. Currently, the International Champions Cup website lists a game between them at a venue and time “to be determined.”
Friday afternoon, Nick Rosen-Wachs, a tournament spokesperson, said in an e-mail to the Daily that he couldn’t verify a game in Ann Arbor.
“We cannot confirm anything at the moment but will look to announce the venue for the Real Madrid v. Manchester United game in early March,” he wrote.
However, he did confirm that the International Champions Cup has been in serious discussion with the University to host that match at Michigan Stadium.
Real Madrid, which won the inaugural tournament last year, boasts 32 La Liga titles. Manchester United has finished atop the English Premier League 13 times since its foundation in 1992.
The two clubs feature some of soccer’s elite players, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale of Los Blancos, the Spanish team’s nickname, and Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney of The Red Devils.
Readying the Big House for soccer — if that is where the match is held — won’t come without its share of complications. Per FIFA, international soccer’s governing body, a regulation pitch must be between 70 and 80 yards wide for international matches, but a college football field is just 53 yards across. Tournament officials could either erect an elevated platform to provide the necessary width or, because the game is essentially preseason exhibition for both clubs, accept playing with non-regulation dimensions.
Additionally, Michigan Stadium uses an artificial surface, which has been criticized as being sub-optimal for soccer. When the United States Men’s National Team played Panama at CenturyLink Field in Seattle last June, the U.S. Soccer Federation installed a temporary layer of grass over the artificial turf. It is unclear whether the International Champions Cup would do the same.
The nation’s largest American football stadium is no stranger to non-football events. In 2010, it hosted Michigan and Michigan State in the Big Chill at the Big House, setting the record for attendance at a hockey game. On New Year’s Day this year, the 2014 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium drew more than 100,000 fans.
Even if hosted at the Big House, the Real Madrid-Manchester United matchup won’t approach the attendance mark for soccer, which FIFA recognizes as 173,850 at the 1950 World Cup Final in Rio De Janeiro. But it could top the list of attendance at a soccer game in the United States, which stands at 101,799 for the final of the 1984 Summer Olympics between France and Brazil.
Michigan Stadium officially seats 109,901 for football games.
And after spending the summer watching the World Cup in Brazil, fútbol fans may be able to turn their eyes toward Ann Arbor and two of the world’s most storied clubs.