Comerica Park is set to host its first professional soccer match this summer, as a contest between AS Roma and current French Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain F.C is scheduled for July 19. The match is a part of the 2017 International Champions Cup.
While the home of Detroit Tigers has been utilized in the past for non-baseball events–including major concerts–it has never been put to use for professional soccer. The international match on July 19 should give Comerica Park considerable exposure, not only because International Champions Cup contests have been a solid draw at other major United States venues, but also for the fact that the game will air live at 8:00 p.m. EST on ESPN 2.
“We are thrilled to bring the first ever global soccer match to The District Detroit and Comerica Park by hosting the kickoff match of the highly competitive International Champions Cup,” said Christopher Ilitch, president & CEO of Ilitch Holdings, Inc said in a statement. “We are equally excited to showcase AS Roma and Paris Saint-Germain, two premier football clubs before a worldwide television audience. Having Paris and Roma in Detroit puts our community on a worldwide stage and provides just a taste of the incredible variety of world-class sports and entertainment in The District Detroit.”
“We are excited to bring two of the best in international soccer to Comerica Park and The District Detroit as part of the ICC,” said Charlie Stillitano, chairman of Relevent Sports in a statement. “Both Roma and PSG have achieved continued success in Italian and French football respectively and will be looking to add to their trophy case this summer. Showcasing the best that international soccer has to offer in a city so rich in sports history is a dream come true for our organization. We look forward to hosting these clubs at Comerica Park to kick off the 2017 tournament and providing an atmosphere that the people of Detroit will absolutely want to be a part of.”
Beyond being a first for Comerica Park, this match carries a good deal of significance in the broader context of Detroit’s sports scene. With an effort led by Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores, the city is currently one of 12 contenders for an MLS expansion franchise. There are still some uncertainties regarding the group’s proposal for a new soccer-specific stadium, but the match at Comerica Park is being touted as a strong reflection of the city’s growing interest in soccer. More from The Detroit News:
Alex Zecca, who runs the youth development for AS Roma — and was its representative Wednesday in Detroit — said he expects the international match to help Detroit get one step further in its bid to earn an MLS franchise.
“I absolutely think so,” Zecca said. “What 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. It’s the enthusiasm that the league is looking at. This is part of what they’re 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.”
Chris Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings Inc., said he’s supportive of MLS coming to Detroit.
“I think Detroit is known as one of, if not the best sports town in America,” Ilitch said. “I 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 it’d be great for the community and for Detroit as a sports city. So I’m supportive of that.”
Illitch expanded upon his support for MLS in Detroit, citing the city’s enthusiasm for sports and the growth of soccer at all levels. More from The Detroit Free Press:
“Right now Detroit is becoming the greatest sports and entertainment town in America,” Ilitch said Wednesday. “We’re so much more, a city and a region that is undoubtedly on the rise, writing the world’s greatest comeback story.
Ilitch called Comerica Park a “community-gathering place” and that’s why it is located in the center of the city. Ilitch said there are more than 100,000 participants in youth soccer in the state.
“Detroit is known as one of, if not, the best sports town in America,” Ilitch said. “I think the growth in the sport of soccer is undeniable worldwide and in the United States. The younger generation loves this sport. I see it with my own three children, who all play soccer. My passion for the sport has grown as I’ve seen it through their eyes and their passion for it.”
There is an interesting situation unfolding in Detroit, as all four of the city’s major sports franchises will play in downtown venues later this year. Comerica Park and Ford Field have been situated across the street from each other since the latter’s opening in 2002, and nearby Little Caesars Arena is set to debut for the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Pistons this fall.