The Spanish national soccer team has arrived in Washington for final preparations ahead of the World Cup, a week-long stay culminating with Saturday afternoon’s friendly against El Salvador at FedEx Field.
What you need to know about La Furia Roja’s visit to the nation’s capital and the doubleheader with D.C. United in Landover:
1. The full 23-man World Cup squad traveled, featuring 16 players from the 2010 championship in South Africa.
2. Why are they here instead of back home? A taste of humidity to prepare for Brazil, the opportunity to play a neutral-site match, less public scrutiny and a substantial payday from game promoters. Several Brazilian-bound teams have chosen to train in the United States. England, for instance, is in Miami and Portugal selected the New York area.
3. Spain was supposed to practice for three days at Catholic University, but field conditions were not up to standard, so organizers scrambled late last week and reached a deal to use RFK Stadium’s main field. EventsDC, which manages RFK and other facilities, accommodated the late request. Although unusual to practice for multiple days in a large stadium, the field is in fine shape, the structure provides a more private and secure setting than a college campus, and the location is closer to the team hotel. D.C. United will conduct training as it usually does at the RFK training grounds next to Lot 7.
4. Spain’s practices at RFK are closed to the public. However, organizers are looking into the possibility of open sessions for both El Salvador and Spain on Friday afternoon at FedEx Field. A ticket to Saturday’s game would also gain access to Friday’s practices. Fans would not be able to purchase tickets to watch the practice sessions only. Again, nothing has been finalized. We’ll keep you posted.
5. The latest ticket count for Saturday’s doubleheader is 48,000. Capacity is 79,000. Organizers are hoping for a late uptick in advance sales and a decent walk-up by the Salvadoran community, which typically buys on the day of matches. It’s not a cheap event: Remaining tickets begin at $47.35, including fees — and that price category doesn’t include a seat (“upper level standing”). The lower level sideline seats go for $106.75.
6. The Spain-El Salvador match will kick off at 4 p.m. United, which is two points out of first place in MLS’s Eastern Conference, will face the Crew in a regular season game at 6:30. Only one ticket is required to witness both matches. Univision will show the first game. Comcast SportsNet/Washington will handle the MLS affair.
7. Spain is staying in the city. At this time, the hotel identity is not for public consumption. Once the team is settled and the traveling media horde begins reporting, the location will inevitably filter out. Rest assured, Xavi and the boys are not staying at the Howard Johnson Inn on New York Avenue. UPDATE: The Spanish federation has posted the hotel on its website: Mandarin Oriental.
8. Spain arrived in the States with most of its World Cup supplies, which are being kept in storage until the delegation departs for Sao Paulo from BWI Airport on Sunday morning.
9. The delegation is scheduled to tour the White House on Thursday. They won’t meet President Obama — he is in Europe.
10. Shakira, Spanish defender Gerard Pique‘s hip-shaking significant other, is scheduled to spend part of the week in Washington and attend the match. La La La.