Even 10 years ago, this type of game would never have been played. First off, teams like Real Madrid and Juventus weren’t making stops in the United States. And second, one of baseball’s classic venues would have turned its nose up at the idea of hosting a silly little soccer game.
But it’s 2013 and soccer (yes, football) is growing in America. The popularity of the MLS — and strong ratings for international games (especially the women’s team) — shows the United States is slowly, sometimes painfully, seeing that soccer is truly a compelling game.
American soccer fans are in for a treat this summer when the International Champions Cup invades six different cities across the nation between July 27 and August 7. The tournament features eight of the world’s biggest clubs, who will face off in elimination games. While many exhibitions have a ho-hum atmosphere to them, this series packs some must-see clubs – and an historic angle.
The event will also be hosted in one European city (Valencia, Spain) – with the championship game scheduled at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida on Aug 7.
Besides Miami, the other American host cities are New York, San Francisco, Phoenix, Indianapolis and a particularly interesting location in Los Angeles. No Rose Bowl this time – we’re talking venerable Dodgers Stadium and its first-ever soccer match. (More on that in a minute.)
The high-profile teams playing in the tournament are AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus of Italy’s Serie A; Chelsea and Everton of the English Premier League; and Real Madrid and Valencia of Spain’s La Liga. The Los Angeles Galaxy are the lone representative from Major League Soccer (MLS).
The first round of the event includes AC Milan vs Valencia in Spain, while Juventus takes on Everton in San Francisco. The Los Angeles Galaxy meet Real Madrid in Phoenix for a particularly juicy match, and Inter Milan squares off against Chelsea in Indianapolis. The winners will play each other in a semifinal round, while the losers continue to play each other in a consolation series.
The L.A. games are perhaps the most interesting, simply due to the unique location. Those who buy International Champions Cup tickets in Los Angeles will be a part of history when they see the first-ever soccer match at Dodgers Stadium since it opened in 1962.
The 56,000-seat venue will be converted into a soccer pitch on August 3. The game will showcase the winner of the Juventus vs Everton showdown against the winner of Real Madrid and the Los Angeles Galaxy at 7:30 p.m. – with an earlier game at 5 p.m. between the losers of those two contests.
So how will Dodgers Stadium – which is now the third-oldest ballpark in all of Major League Baseball – make way for soccer?
As this map shows, the soccer field will be constructed at an odd angle to make sure a decent-sized pitch fits into the playing surface. One net will be placed down the third base line in front of the visitors’ dugout, while the other net will face it from its location in right field.
There isn’t a specific regulation size for soccer pitches, but there is a minimum and maximum size for FIFA-regulated games. The minimum length is 100 yards with the maximum being 120 yards, while the minimum width is 50 yards and the maximum set at 100 yards. However, there is some leeway for exhibition games.
Typically, when a baseball stadium is converted into a soccer pitch the infield dirt needs to be dug out as well as the pitcher’s mound.
Sod is then laid and the field markings are painted on when everything’s ready. The hard part of the job is removing the dirt and making sure everything will be level with the existing turf.
The dirt and clay is usually removed with a backhoe, small bulldozer and some type of conveyor belt system. But since soccer is a relatively low impact sport (except for the goalie boxes), the outfield grass isn’t expected to suffer any significant damage.
The complete list of venues include the Mestalla Stadium in Valencia, Spain, the University of Phoenix Stadium in Phoenix, AT&T Park in San Francisco, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Met Life Stadium in New York, Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles and Miami’s Sun Life Stadium.