D.C. United will play a major Italian club July 28 at FedEx Field in the first match of a doubleheader that is also expected to feature Chelsea against AC Milan, multiple sources close to the negotiations said Monday.
The addition of the United match increases the number of friendlies on that date in this area to three, joining Liverpool vs. Tottenham Hotspur at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. It also ups the ante in the ticket-selling competition between the Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens, who are hosting the respective games in their NFL stadiums and have financial stakes in the events.
The identity of United’s opponent wasn’t made available to the Insider. However, sources ruled out Roma (which is on a U.S. tour around that time) and perennial power Inter Milan. That would leave Juventus, the most fabled Italian club with 27 league titles, as the top candidate.
AC Milan is atop the Serie A standings with eight games remaining, two points ahead of Juventus. The Turin club toured Toronto, New York and Raleigh, N.C., last summer.
Last Thursday, the Ravens and Maryland Stadium Authority announced the Liverpool-Tottenham match, which will begin at 1 p.m. in order to avoid parking and logistical conflicts with a Baltimore Orioles baseball game against the Oakland Athletics that evening at neighboring Camden Yards.
The United match would likely kick off late in the afternoon, followed by Chelsea vs. Milan in the evening. Chelsea, fifth in the English Premier League and an UEFA Champions League quarterfinalist, announced the Washington visit on its Web site last week, then removed it, presumably because the doubleheader details and contracts weren’t finalized.
For weeks, United had been exploring the possibility of a friendly at RFK Stadium, but with the Redskins and Ravens planning to stage their own matches involving high-profile Europeans, United looked to partner with the Redskins.
United has played in Landover twice previously: a 2-1 loss to Chelsea before 31,273 in 2005 and a 3-0 defeat to Real Madrid in front of 72,368 in 2009. Neither was part of a doubleheader.
United is also looking to schedule friendlies at RFK in early June and mid-October during lulls in the MLS schedule.
International matches at American venues are subject to approval by the U.S. Soccer Federation, which oversees all events in this country. The fact that the Washington-Baltimore games would take place 32 miles from one another doesn’t seem to trouble the USSF.
“If someone wants to play a friendly on the same day for whatever reasons, we wouldn’t stop them,” spokesman Neil Buethe said.
Essentially, under such circumstances, the onus is on the promoters and teams to market the matches and understand the challenges of selling tickets against competing events (soccer or otherwise). And in the case of Washington vs. Baltimore, attendance of, say, 50,000 at FedEx Field and 40,000 at M&T Bank Stadium would exceed the turnout if only one event were held.
Another reason the USSF wouldn’t stand in the way of two events: money. The organization collects 9 percent of gross gate receipts from matches involving two foreign teams.
(It receives 5.25 percent for games with one foreign club and between 11.25 percent and 15 percent when a foreign national team is involved. In that latter situation, the fees help cover dues owed to FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, and CONCACAF, the regional body.)
Tickets for the Baltimore match, with a price range of $36 to $125, will go on sale Tuesday.
In addition to the July 28 doubleheader, FedEx Field will host a May 30 friendly between the U.S. and Brazilian national teams.