Ballparks in major cities are serving another sporting purpose this summer: hosting international soccer matches.
In the past it wasn’t unusual for ballparks to host non-baseball sporting events, especially college and pro football. But soccer is a new player in the ballpark world. For a baseball team, converting the field for use as a soccer pitch has a few advantages: it will bring a new audience to the ballpark, and it brings in some additional revenue, as a good friendly will attract 40,000 or so. There are several MLB and MiLB organizations involved in European soccer: the Boston Red Sox, for instance, are part of the Liverpool FC ownership, so bringing that team to Fenway Park this summer is a no-brainer.
This summer’s nearly four weeks of exhibitions have a baseball flavor, with games at two early 20th century stadiums: Fenway Park (Liverpool-Roma) and Wrigley Field (Roma-Zaglebie Lubin); Yankee Stadium which was built to look like its storied predecessor; a retro ballpark, Citi Field (Ecuador-Chile); and Rogers Centre (Liverpool-Toronto F.C.), the Toronto Blue Jays’ retractable-roofed home.
“We wanted some iconic venues and thought it would be cool to hit the baseball stadiums,” said Charlie Stillitano, an executive at CAA Sports. “For us, it’s good business because the fun part of seeing a different game on a baseball ground is unique. It’s a great environment and a new perspective.”
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