In the second game, Marseille topped Bordeaux, 2-1, behind Dimitri Payet’s two goals. He evened the score in the 52nd minute. Six minutes later, he scored the winner, setting up Sunday’s title match against Saint-Étienne.
After that, Marseille plays D.C. United in a friendly here Wednesday.
“This part of preseason is very important, and this was an exciting match,” said Mihailo Ristic, a Montpellier defender. “It seems soccer is not a priority here, but in Europe it’s huge. Tonight was fun.”
Ristic said he and his teammates hope to see the White House and the U.S. Capitol before flying back to France — and getting back to preseason training — following Sunday’s third-place match against Bordeaux.
France’s Ligue 1, thought to be the fifth-best circuit in Europe, kicks off the season the weekend of Aug. 9-11. But as the league attempts to expand its brand, the teams met a few weeks earlier — on a hot July night in Southwest Washington. These matches are part of Ligue 1 Chief Executive Didier Quillot’s quest to lure U.S. investors to French clubs as well as an attempt to expand interest in the league outside of France.
“We understand the need to build both the league’s brand here in the U.S. and specifically Bordeaux’s brand here in the U.S.,” Bordeaux President Joseph DaGrosa said.
DaGrosa, who lives in Miami, bought the team last fall. Marseille’s Frank McCourt, who previously controlled the Los Angeles Dodgers, is the league’s other American owner.
The U.S. national team’s run to the Women’s World Cup title included a victory over host France, which sent the Americans to the semifinals and showed the continued growth of the women’s game in both countries. DaGrosa said there has been an “80 percent increase in spending over the years” for Bordeaux’s women’s team, which beat the NWSL’s Washington Spirit, 3-1, in March.
To DaGrosa, now is the time to capitalize on World Cup momentum — and to invest in the women’s game.
“The younger generation of athletes in the U.S., particularly women, are gravitating to soccer,” he said. “We’re really at that tipping point where women’s soccer will really take off if managed properly. It’s an exciting game to watch, and there is a lot of potential there.”
Some of Europe’s top men’s club teams have been making trips to the United States for years, with the English Premier League and Spain’s La Liga at the top of the list. In the years ahead, DaGrosa hopes France’s top circuit can join that mix and attract more fans on this side of the Atlantic.
“No doubt about the competition,” he said. “It’s difficult but not impossible to surmount.”