Wizards midfielder Davy Arnaud, like most of his teammates, often has wondered what it would be like to step on the pitch against a world-class soccer club like Manchester United.
By RANDY COVITZ
The Kansas City Star
He’s imagined going against the likes of international stars such as Wayne Rooney -- the Player of the Year in England -- or Ryan Giggs of Wales or Edwin van der Sar of The Netherlands.
The Wizards will get that chance on July 25 when Manchester United, the most storied team in the English Premier League, will face the Wizards in the inaugural sporting event scheduled for the renovated Arrowhead Stadium. Kickoff will be at 5 p.m.
“If you’re a soccer fan, you know who Manchester United is; the names just jump out at you,” said Arnaud, moments after the Wizards and Chiefs announced Thursday that the Red Devils will visit Arrowhead in the third leg of their summer tour of North America.
“I’m excited to play against and compete against guys we follow week in and week out and play in some of the biggest games in the world. When we play teams like this, we’re representing Major League Soccer and trying to do the best we can to show not only our fans but other fans from other countries that the MLS is growing and becoming better and better.”
United, winner of the last three Premier League titles, will also face Scottish club Celtic F.C. in Toronto on July 16; will play at MLS’ Philadelphia Union on July 21; will meet the MLS All-Stars on July 28 at Houston’s Reliant Stadium and conclude with a match on July 30 at Chivas’ new 45,000-seat stadium in Guadalajara as part of the agreement to acquire forward Javier Hernandez.
“This will be one of the biggest sporting events the Midwest has ever seen, and it's a great opportunity for Kansas City to show that we deserve to be one of the host cities for the World Cup,” Wizards president and OnGoal CEO Robb Heineman said. “When OnGoal purchased the Wizards, we anticipated bringing high-profile teams like Manchester United to Kansas City, and with our new stadium opening in 2011, our fans can expect more games of this caliber in the future.”
Kansas City was recently chosen as one of 18 potential cities that will be included in the United States’ bid to host the 2018 or 2022 FIFA World Cup, with the newly-renovated 76,000-capacity Arrowhead Stadium serving as the city’s primary venue. An official announcement is expected by December.
“This is one of the biggest events to ever come to Kansas City because Manchester United is one of the top sports franchises in the world,” said Kevin Gray, president of the Greater Kansas City Sports Commission and Foundation. “We have been so fortunate to host major events over the years and frankly, I cannot think of another contest that has the kind of international exposure as this match will have, which should bolster our chances to be a World Cup city.”
Attendance at the Wizards/Manchester United game is expected to shatter the previous record of 37,319 for a soccer match in Kansas City when the United States national team beat Costa Rica 1-0 on a goal by current Wizards forward Josh Wolff. The U.S. women’s team also has enjoyed large crowds in Kansas City, playing in front of 36,405 fans in a friendly match against Finland in October of 1999.
“We are very excited to welcome Manchester United as the first event in the buildup to the grand opening of the new Arrowhead,” Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said. “Manchester United is one of the most popular brands in all of sports.”
Manchester United, owned by the Glazer family, owner of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is also a renowned name in the world of sports business. In 2009, Forbes ranked United as the wealthiest sports team in the world, with an estimated worth of $1.8 billion.
Tickets for the exhibition range from $30 to $200 and will go on sale to the public at 10 a.m., May 15 . Parking will be $25. There is also a special presale for Wizards and Chiefs season ticket holders beginning immediately. A ticket to the Wizards vs. Manchester United game is included in the Kansas City Wizards season ticket member package via special game tickets.
Manchester United could be missing some of its World Cup-bound players, including Rooney, who recently scored his 100th Premier League goal this season, but the team is committed to fielding all of its players who did not play in the June 11-July 11 World Cup in South Africa.
Even without some of its top players, Manchester United will bring a caliber of play not seen in the MLS.
“If you’ve seen them play on TV, you can see the different things their players bring,” said Arnaud, a veteran of the United States national team. “Their speed of play is going to be very fast, and technically they’re all very good.”
Arnaud, in fact, is already planning his strategy on whose Manchester United player’s jersey he’ll seek after the match.
“Some guys try and ask early on in the game,” he said. “I guess it’s whoever gets in there first gets their pick.”
To reach Randy Covitz, call 816-234-4796 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org