International soccer coming to Comerica Park – The Detroit News
Detroit â Professional soccer is coming to the Motor City, but itâs not the MLSÂ âÂ at least not yet.
Paris Saint-Germain and AS Roma will kick off the International Champions Cup at 8:30 p.m. on July 19, the Tigers and District Detroit announced in a news conference WednesdayÂ afternoon at Comerica Park.
It will be the fourth international soccer match in the area in three years and the first match between both teams.
Real Madrid played twice at Michigan Stadium. It took on Manchester United in 2014 and Chelsea last year for the ICC, whileÂ Detroit City FC hosted FC United of ManchesterÂ at Keyworth Stadium last spring.
Juan Pablo Sorin, who played in 21 matches for PSG in 2003-04, said heâs looking forward to Julyâs contest.
âHaving two great teams with a lot of history, obviously PSG is a lot younger of a team and Roma that has an impressive history, itâll be a very exciting match,â Sorin saidÂ through an interpreter.
He said heâs curious to see how the match plays out in a venue not originally designed for soccer. While Comerica Park holds 41,297 for a baseball game, it fluctuates depending on the event.
âItâs really interesting, the idea of a football match here (at a baseball stadium),â Sorin said. âIâm a fan of baseball and I always find it interesting how big the stadiums are.â
The layout is not yet finalized, but the seating capacity is expected to be around 40,000-42,000.
However, 33,025 came for the Winter Festival âÂ including the alumni game between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs during the 2013 Winter Classic.
âWe expect to sell out,â said Charlie Stillitano, chairman of Relevent Sports, which is owned by Michigan alum and business magnate Stephen A. Ross, and is the primary organizer of the ICC. âWith baseball, we do different configurations. It depends if weâre taking down the mound or not. I have to go look at it today.â
Part of the preparation includes the installation of grass on the infield, where there would normally be dirt for a game.
âWe are committed to putting in grass for all the teams,â Stillitano said. âThe reason is really a simple one. This is their preseason preparation. Teams come here and they take it very, very seriously.â
What does this mean for MLS?
Alex Zecca, who runs the youth development for AS Roma âÂ and was its representative Wednesday in DetroitÂ âÂ said he expects the international match to help Detroit get one step further inÂ its bid to earn an MLS franchise.
âI absolutely think so,â Zecca said. âWhat you demonstrate here is that (Detroit) is a soccer town. People will come out to see the game and it shows a certain love for the sport. Itâs the enthusiasm that the league is looking at. This is part of what theyâre looking for. When they see cities like Detroit that really want to do it, and are going after it, I think it bodes well for them.â
Chris Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings Inc.,Â said heâs supportive ofÂ MLS coming to Detroit.
âI think Detroit is known as one of, if not the best sports town in America,â Ilitch said. âI think the growth in the sport of soccer is undeniable world wide and in the United States. The younger generation loves this sport. I see it with my own three children. They all play soccer. My passion for the sport has grown as I see it through their eyes. I think itâd be great for the community and for Detroit as a sports city. So Iâm supportive of that.â
Stillatano is also a proponent of Detroitâs bid.
âThe fact that Chris mentioned is so remarkable that the four professional teams are here within a few blocks of each other,â Stillatano said. âIt would be great to have a soccer team because, letâs face it, soccer is the fifth sport. I think theyâve (MLS) established themselves as a real sport.â
As far as the future of the ICC in Detroit, Stillitano said Juventus, which is playing WednesdayÂ evening in a Champions League semifinal match, wants to play here.
Juventus Chairman Andrea Agnelli and his family, which founded Fiat âÂ and owns a stake of Chrysler âÂ has strong ties to Detroit.
âSo he (Agnelli) said, âYouâre going to Detroit? I want to be in Detroit,ââ Stillitano said. âI said, âWell, weâve only got one game left.â So thereâs not a formal agreement to continue, but weâve talked about it. We would like to make this a regular stop.â
Tickets go on sale May 16. More information can be found here.
2017 International Champions Cup
Who: AS Roma vs. Paris Saint-Germain
When: 8:30 p.m. July 19
Where: Comerica Park, Detroit
Cost: Tickets will start at $25 and go on sale May 16
Al Willman is a freelance writer