It’ll be like a football Saturday, but in the middle of summer. And on steroids.
Friday afternoon, the Michigan Athletic Department confirmed a report by the Daily in a press conference that Real Madrid and Manchester United will face off at Michigan Stadium on Aug. 2, 2014.
The match, originally reported in February by worldsoccertalk.com, is part of the International Champions Cup, which features clubs from Italy, England, Spain and Greece.
“This is a rare chance for the Ann Arbor community and thousands of soccer fans in and around the southeast Michigan area to watch elite-level professional soccer,” said Athletic Director Dave Brandon in a statement. “This event will have a positive economic impact on the city of Ann Arbor and the state of Michigan and will continue to extend the Michigan brand internationally.”
Officials and Brandon hope to break the record for attendance at a soccer game in the United States, which stands at 101,799. Michigan Stadium has an official capacity of 109,901 for football games.
Ann Arbor is no stranger to being on the big stage. Just four months ago, Michigan Stadium drew more than 100,000 fans for the Winter Classic, an outdoor hockey game presented by the NHL.
“This particular event, we thought was particularly unique because of its global characteristics,” Brandon said. “When you think about the global broadcast network, the number of stations, the number of countries that will be tuned in, it feels like the Winter Classic on steroids.”
Brandon said he expects the event to bring up to more than $14 million to the city of Ann Arbor, citing a typical football Saturday as bringing in close to $14 million on average.
“Certainly, from time to time, when something comes along, we’re very open to it as long as it’s good for the community,” Brandon said. We love doing this; it creates a lot for excitement. And we take a facility that we all love, and that sits empty all but seven or eight days of the year.”
The Athletic Department and officials discussed how convert a turf football field — 53 yards in length — to a soccer field that must be between 70 and 80 yards wide. Brandon said that teams will not sit on the field. Rather they, will likely be placed in benches in the stands, leaving the entire width of the field available for playing.
Charlie Stillatano, CEO of Relevant Sports, the marketing company affiliated with the event, said that workers will lay a protective surface over the turf field before loading trays of sod on top. The process should take about 48 hours to complete, according to Stillatano.
Real Madrid of Spain and Manchester United of England are two of the most storied clubs in the world. Los Blancos have won a record 32 La Liga and nine Champions League titles in program history and are led by reigning Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo.
Manchester United is also no stranger to success, having won 20 league titles and three Champions League trophies. The Red Devils feature stars like strikers Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney.
Group Managing Director Richard Arnold said that Manchester United is one of the top-5 brands among all businesses in the United Kingdom and operates in more than 161 countries in the world — more than Apple and Google.
Part of proceeds from the event will be put to academic scholarships, according to Brandon, while the rest will go to the construction of a new soccer facility. The UM Soccer Stadium, home to both the Michigan men’s and women’s soccer teams, was opened in 2010, but does not have access to athletic training spaces, office space or anything beyond locker rooms and a field.
“This building will not only help us recruit better, but for our student athletes and coaches, it’s going to be a fantastic facility for us to work in,” said Michigan women’s soccer coach Greg Ryan. “I think, for everybody, it’s just going to create a great experience.”
Michigan season ticket holders will have access to tickets to the International Champions Cup event on Monday April 7, at 8:30 a.m. The general public can purchase tickets three days later.