Major League Soccer said it will keep on eye on the public interest in the match next weekbetween European soccer giants A.S. Roma and Paris Saint-Germain at Comerica Park.
Detroit businessmen Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores want an MLS expansion team — the league will award two this year and another two some time later — and a sellout crowd won’t harm the market’s chances of getting a club.
“Major League Soccer monitors the support for soccer in all 12 potential expansion markets, including marquee international events and crowds for soccer in the lower divisions throughout our country,” Dan Courtemanche, MLS’ executive vice president for Communications, said via email Friday afternoon.
By lower divisions, he’s referencing Detroit City FC, the semi-pro team in Hamtramck that draws about 5,000 fans a game.
Organizers have said capacity for the game at Comerica Park, scheduled for 8 p.m. Wednesday, will be about 37,000 – smaller than the stadium’s 41,000-seat capacity because of the field arrangement. A spokesman for the ballpark said nearly 30,000 tickets have been sold so far. They start at $25. The game also will air live on ESPN 2.
Gilbert, the founder and chairman of Quicken Loans Inc. and Rock Ventures LLC, and Gores, the private equity industrialist who bought the Detroit Pistons in 2011, want an expansion team to play at a proposed $1 billion 25,000-seat stadium and mixed-use development. Their goal is to have a stadium ready by 2020. The site they want is the half-built Wayne County Consolidated Jail at Gratiot Avenue and I-375, and they remain in talks with county government on securing the site.
A.S. Roma and Paris Saint-Germain, which have never met in competition before, are playing each other as part of the International Champions Cup, an eight-team round-robin preseason tournament that will have eight elite clubs playing matches at in 11 U.S. stadiums July 19-30. There are also ICC matches in China and Singapore with seven different clubs played concurrently with the U.S. tournament.
ICC matches have proven immensely popular in Michigan: Last year, the University of Michigan’s Michigan Stadium hosted the ICC between Spain’s Real Madrid and the England’s Chelsea FC in front of 105,826 fans. A 2014 ICC match at the Big House between Manchester United and Real Madrid drew 109,318 fans, setting the U.S. record for soccer attendance.
Comerica Park was chosen for the A.S. Roma-Paris Saint-Germain match because those teams don’t quite have the team name recognition of the clubs that played at Michigan Stadium, soccer insiders have said. The game is possible at Comerica Park because the Detroit Tigers have a seven-game road trip at Kansas City and Minnesota beginning Monday through July 23. The soccer pitch is expected to be laid after the Tigers wrap up their Sunday afternoon game against the Blue Jays.
The goals will be aligned roughly from left field and in front of the first base coach’s box.
The pitcher’s mound will be removed for Wednesday’s match, and the infield will be sodded. About 50 percent of the stadium’s turf will be replaced after the match, and it’s expected the entire field will be resodded after the season.
The ICC tournament is organized by New York City-based Relevent Sports LLC, which is owned by Detroit-born New York real estate developer and billionaire Stephen Ross, a 1962 UM grad and the university’s largest donor.