Four French soccer clubs will participate in a preseason tournament at Audi Field this summer, people close to the situation said Thursday, and one (Olympique Marseille) will face D.C. United in a friendly.
The other teams are Saint-Etienne, Montpellier and Bordeaux. The semifinals will be played July 18 and a third-place match and championship game three days later.
The Marseille-D.C. match is slated for July 24 — a midweek test between MLS games at Atlanta and Chicago — and serve as the second of three United friendlies against foreign clubs. Spain’s Real Betis will visit Audi Field on Wednesday and a Latin American team, probably Mexican, will come in September.
United will, for the most part, field secondary lineups.
Seeking to make inroads in the U.S. market, French league officials negotiated the deal and will essentially pay rent to use Audi Field, the 20,000-seat venue that opened last summer. The pact is for three years, though both sides may exercise an opt-out clause if the tournament falls short of expectations.
L’Equipe, the French sports publication, was first to confirm the identify of the four clubs coming to Washington.
From a marketing and popularity standpoint in the United States, all 20 French Ligue 1 clubs, except European titan Paris Saint-Germain, find themselves far behind brethren from England’s Premier League, Germany’s Bundesliga, Spain’s La Liga and Italy’s Serie A.
Bordeaux, which sent its women’s team to play the Washington Spirit in a friendly this spring, is owned by a U.S. investment group headed by Miami executive Joseph DaGrosa.
Former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt runs Olympique Marseille.
The D.C. competition will fall during training camp leading to the 2019-20 season, which will kick off in August.
Monaco and Nice were also in the early mix to participate, said one person speaking on a condition of anonymity, but chose other preseason destinations.
The current Ligue 1 season will conclude May 24. At the moment, Saint-Etienne is fourth, Montpellier fifth, Marseille six and Bordeaux 14th.
Marseille features Italian forward Mario Balotelli, though the former Manchester City and AC Milan star, known as “Super Mario,” could leave this summer when his contract expires.