Michigan Stadium to host Manchester United-Real Madrid soccer match

ANN ARBOR — Dave Brandon knew there would be challenges when this idea was first pitched.

As always, though, the Michigan athletic director also saw opportunity.

The possibility of international soccer power Manchester United playing a game at Michigan Stadium was first presented by Chevrolet nearly two years ago, when the car company signed a deal with the famous club.

Though it took some time, Brandon saw the possibility from the beginning and knew bringing the legendary Man U brand to Ann Arbor, potentially setting a United States soccer attendance record, was enticing.

That plan got the official public stamp on Friday when U-M joined Chevrolet, Man U and Relevent Sports announcing that the 2014 Guinness International Champions Cup will come to Ann Arbor on Aug. 2.

The game between Man U and Real Madrid will kick off at 4 p.m. and be televised internationally by Fox.

“Our goal at Michigan is always to stage world class events at the Big House,” Brandon said Friday at the press conference. “All of those events have been resounding success and I expect this to be on the same level.”

The match is part of 12 round-robin contests across the United States from July 24-Aug. 2, culminating in a title match at Miami’s Sun Life Stadium on Aug. 4.

As the various sites were announced around the country, Ann Arbor was a rumor but never announced, until Friday.

There were many logistical obstacles to overcome in the period since, primarily the date and placing a grass field over the current stadium FieldTurf.

Early discussions centered on a floating field that extended into the stands, but Brandon realized the prep time and potential damage to U-M’s field was a bit too ambitious.

Relevent, a company owned by major U-M booster Stephen Ross that presents many soccer matches, has placed these fields in many stadiums. They settled on a small layer of geotech fabric will be laid over the existing FieldTurf to protect it and a grass field will be trucked in sections (6 feet by 60 feet) and assembled in a 48-hour period leading up to the event. The dimensions are expected to be generally the same as the stadiums in Europe.

Though Michigan will lease the field for to Relevent Sports for the match, Brandon and the department are involved in much of the organization, including providing the workers who will run the concessions, even though the profits will got to organizers. As with the NHL’s Winter Classic on New Year’s Day, U-M has applied for a liquor license.

As with most of these type of events at Michigan Stadium, the primary attraction is the size, hoping to set an American attendance record for a soccer game.

Though there have been crowds in excess of 150,000 in South America and other places, the United States held a crowd of 101,799 fans at the 1984 Olympics at the Rose Bowl.

U-M’s capacity for football is 109,901 but Michigan may have to use some seats for the teams if they cannot sit on the field level due to the wide playing surface.

The field will be donated to U-M after and much of the proceeds from the stadium rental, the total which Brandon would not divulge Friday, will help as a down payment for the planned administrative and training facilities for the Michigan soccer teams.

Tickets will go on sale first to U-M donors and season ticket holders on April 7 at 8:30 a.m. on mgoblue.com/tickets and then to the general public on April 10.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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