Match Pitting D.C. United, Real Madrid Is Set for August 9

D.C. United, which took on European soccer power Chelsea at FedEx Field in July 2005, will face Real Madrid on Aug. 9, also at FedEx Field.
D.C. United, which took on European soccer power Chelsea at FedEx Field in July 2005, will face Real Madrid on Aug. 9, also at FedEx Field. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
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By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 29, 2009

D.C. United completed months of difficult negotiation yesterday by finalizing an Aug. 9 match against Real Madrid, European soccer's most decorated club. But instead of playing at RFK Stadium, United's home for 14 MLS seasons, the friendly will be staged at FedEx Field.

United officials chose the Landover venue, in part, because it can accommodate about twice as many spectators as RFK, a creaky, 48-year-old facility that holds 46,000. By selling enough tickets, the club would offset Real's appearance fee of an estimated $1 million and turn a profit.

Other factors were FedEx's private boxes and amenities and the Washington Redskins' involvement, including access to the NFL team's season ticket list.

Seats in the lower bowl begin at $50 for United and Redskins' season ticket holders. General-public seats, starting at $60, will go on sale June 17. Access to, and fees for, upper-deck seats will not be made available until most of the lower areas sell out.

TV coverage for the 3 p.m. game has yet to be finalized. Real plans to play Toronto FC two days before the Washington visit, sources said.

United welcomed English power Chelsea to FedEx in 2005, but in that case, the visitors didn't want to risk injury on an RFK field scarred by the Washington Nationals' baseball diamond. Although the 2-1 Chelsea victory drew 31,273, local organizers are anticipating a much larger turnout for Real Madrid, which is estimated to have the second-largest global following in all of sports behind Manchester United and is wildly popular in the Washington area's Latin American community.

The matchup will come exactly three years after the teams played to a 1-1 tie before more than 66,000 at Qwest Field in Seattle. That game, however, featured English superstar David Beckham, the sport's biggest draw in the United States. Real does not currently employ anyone with such mainstream fame, but it is planning to make several major acquisitions this summer. Candidates include Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United) and Brazil's Kaka (AC Milan), the past two FIFA world players of the year.

Because of the Real match, United's league game against Kansas City, scheduled for Aug. 8 at RFK, has been moved to Sept. 9.

Real's portfolio is almost unmatched: a record nine European titles, 31 Spanish championships and 17 domestic cup trophies. But the club is going through a difficult period, having conceded the league crown to nemesis Barcelona and watched the Catalan team win the European Champions League title Wednesday. Three weeks ago, Real was embarrassed at home by Barcelona, 6-2.

Florentino Perez is set to return as team president after overseeing Real's wild spending spree that included Beckham earlier this decade. Italian defender Fabio Cannavaro will leave Real this summer and the status of several other high-profile players remains uncertain.

Summer friendlies between MLS teams and world-class clubs in the offseason have become commonplace. United has hosted Chelsea and Tottenham (England), Boca Juniors (Argentina), Bayer Leverkusen (Germany) and Celtic (Scotland).

This summer, Barcelona will face the Los Angeles Galaxy and Seattle Sounders, while AC Milan and Chelsea will play each other in Baltimore as part of a week-long tour that also includes Inter Milan and Club America (Mexico).

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