Spain to play at FedEx Field as part of doubleheader with D.C. United match

(Royal Spain Football Federation)
(Royal Spain Football Federation)

In its final test before arriving in Brazil, defending World Cup champion Spain will play a friendly against El Salvador at FedEx Field as part of a June 7 doubleheader also featuring an MLS match between D.C. United and the Columbus Crew.

Spain will practice at an undisclosed location in the Washington area for several days before facing the Salvadorans in the opening match at the Redskins’ stadium in Landover. Kickoff times have not been finalized, but in order to accommodate European TV, the Spain game will begin mid- to late-afternoon. (Local coverage of both matches is also pending.)

Several World Cup-bound teams haven chosen the United States for final preparations because of a similar time zone to Brazil, abundant training facilities and the opportunity to play competitive matches.

In terms of talent, El Salvador is not nearly on par with Spain but was chosen as the opponent because of its passionate following among expatriates in the Washington area. The Salvadoran squad, stung by a match-fixing scandal last year, typically draws considerable crowds for annual friendlies at RFK Stadium.

Organizers also announced Friday that Honduras, which qualified for the World Cup, will play Turkey on May 29 at RFK — an event that will help RFK compensate for lost revenue from United moving the June 7 match to FedEx. Andy Najar, a former United standout from Edison High School who now plays for Anderlecht in Belgium, is expected to make Honduras’ World Cup roster.

When the possibility of joining forces with the Spain-El Salvador match arose, United officials entered into talks with the promoters, Soccer United Marketing (an MLS entity) and the Redskins.

“We have an opportunity to create an exciting soccer experience in the nation’s capital with Spain getting ready for the World Cup, the Salvador community involved and our game,” said Michael Williamson, United’s outgoing chief operating officer. “It’s going to be fantastic for soccer. And it exposes our club to the general market as well.”

United has played two friendlies at FedEx Field — against Chelsea in 2005 and Real Madrid in ’09 — but never a league match.

Had United officials not agreed to the doubleheader, they faced the prospects of competing with the Spain match for spectators on the same day, if not the same time.

The June 7 arrangement will cause ticketing complications for United season ticket holders. The Spain match will serve as the “special event” in the 18-game package (17 regular season matches, plus one extra game). Those fans will need to apply both the Crew and special event ticket toward the doubleheader. If they are unable, or unwilling, to attend the Spain game, they cannot use the special event ticket for a future non-league game this year, such as the CONCACAF Champions League.

United might consolidate the two required tickets into one new pass or invalidate the bar code on one of them.

At FedEx, United season ticket holders will receive seats of an equivalent location and pricing category, Williamson said. The club plans to contact those fans in the coming weeks.

It remains unclear whether United season ticket holders will have priority access to additional tickets for the doubleheader.

Tickets will go on sale to the general public March 17. (One ticket gains admission to both games.)

The doubleheader isn’t the only soccer event coming to FedEx this summer: On July 29, Manchester United will face Inter Milan as part of the International Champions Cup, an eight-team tournament featuring European clubs in preseason.

In other World Cup tuneups announced by SUM on Friday:

May 30: Bosnia* vs. Ivory Coast*, venue to be determined

June 1: Honduras* vs. Israel at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston

June 3: Greece* vs. Nigeria* at PPL Park in Chester, Pa.

June 4: Ivory Coast* vs. El Salvador at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Tex.

June 6: Greece* vs. Bolivia at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.

*World Cup teams

The U.S. national team will play three home matches in late May and early June. Venues and opponents are in the process of being finalized.

United notes: Williamson is leaving the club to work in a similar capacity for Inter Milan, which is owned by Erick Thohir, United’s primary investor. Tom Hunt, senior vice president of corporate partnerships at Ted Leonsis‘s Monumental Sports, will replace Williamson.

“We are grateful for Michael’s dedication to D.C. United, and I know he has the right skills and expertise for Inter Milan,” United co-owner Jason Levien said in a written statement. “He will strengthen the relationship between two extraordinary soccer clubs in Milan and the District of Columbia.”

Before joining Monumental in 2011, Hunt spent five years with the NBA’s Sacramento Kings and 12 with Turner Broadcasting.

In another front-office change, VP of development and partnerships Mike Schoenbrun was named chief revenue officer. …

The starting time of the April 12 match against the New York Red Bulls at RFK has been changed to 7 p.m. The original time was 2:30. NBC Sports Network will no longer provide coverage. Local TV for this match — as well as the entire season — has not been finalized. …

Goalkeeper Joe Willis, midfielder Collin Martin and midfielder-forward Christiano Francois reported to the third-division Richmond Kickers for Saturday’s friendly against the University of Maryland. They will rejoin United in Washington next week. Defender Jalen Robinson had been scheduled to fly to Richmond as well but pulled a hamstring in Wednesday’s Carolina Challenge Cup match against the Charleston Battery. …

Forward Michael Seaton, 17, was scheduled to join Jamaica’s national team today ahead of friendlies against Barbados on Sunday and St. Lucia on Wednesday. …

United (1-0-1) will face the Seattle Sounders (1-0-1) for the Charleston tournament championship Saturday at 5 p.m. ET (live stream on DCU’s website). …

In case you missed it, here is my feature about Willie Leak, who has worked at RFK Stadium for 50 years.

The print spread:

(Washington Post)
(Washington Post)
Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.
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