A different kind of football is set to come to Ohio Stadium this summer.
An international exhibition match scheduled for July 27 at the ’Shoe between two of Europe’s premier clubs, Spain’s Real Madrid and French club Paris Saint-Germain, was officially announced Tuesday morning.
The match, which is a part of the International Champions Cup, a soccer series that has been pairing together the world’s top clubs for summer friendlies since 2013, could bring some of the sport’s biggest names to Columbus, headlined by Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid.
“We’re very excited to work with The Ohio State University to bring this match here,” said Kwame Bryan, the vice president of stadium partnerships for Relevant Sports, the New York-based firm that hosts the ICC, at a press conference Tuesday.
“We’ve been working for countless months to bring a game here,” he said.
Tickets for the match, which is set to be the first international soccer match ever to be played at Ohio Stadium, go on sale to the general public April 5 through Ticketmaster.
Exclusive presale tickets are available beginning 10 a.m. on March 29.
Fans can sign up for a chance to obtain presale tickets via the ICC’s website, but Bryan told The Lantern the OSU community — students, staff and faculty — will have access to them.
Final ticket details are still being ironed out, Bryan said, though he added they will likely start at $35.
“We hope there is a price point for everyone,” he said.
The match is another extension of the university’s push in recent years to bring events to the ’Shoe beyond football games, OSU Vice President and Athletic Director Gene Smith said.
To date, that has primarily meant concerts, but Smith said the soccer match allows the school — and Columbus — to showcase itself to the global audience that the sport has.
“We feel very comfortable that that particular day, July 27, we’ll have an opportunity to showcase two of the greatest, most valuable teams in this world right here in the ’Shoe,” he said.
Both Columbus Crew SC President Andy Loughnane and OSU men’s soccer coach John Bluem praised the match’s capacity to highlight Columbus’ passion for the world’s most popular sport.
Loughnane said it is a “landmark match for the city of Columbus.”
It will be the first professional soccer match in the ’Shoe since Sept. 30, 1998, when Crew SC played its final game there before moving to its own stadium for the 1999 season. A mere 10,966 fans were on hand for it.
The number of fans anticipated for the July exhibition could dwarf that figure.
Although Smith and Bryan were hesitant to make an attendance projection, both said they expect it to be more than 100,000. The stadium’s attendance record is 108,975, which was set on Nov. 21 when the Buckeyes played Michigan State.
The largest crowd at a soccer game in America was also an ICC match. In that game, 109,318 fans packed in the University of Michigan’s stadium to watch Manchester United take on Real Madrid on Aug. 2, 2014.
Smith laughed after being asked if the university was out to top its archrival.
“We don’t look at it that way,” he said. “We’re not competing with anyone. Our focus is to make sure that these professionals — and these are the best of the best — have a quality experience. So we want make sure we have a packed house for them, regardless of where our number falls relative to anyone else in the world.”
Real Madrid, according to Forbes, is the most valuable sports franchise in the world. Its roster is littered with elite talent, headlined by Ronaldo and James Rodriguez. The Royal Whites have captured the La Liga title 32 times, while also winning 10 European Cup competitions — the most of any club.
PSG has won its league title each of the past three seasons and is currently on pace to take the crown again this year. The club is anchored by Thiago Silva and Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, though the latter is rumored to be exploring transfer options.
In addition to the match at Ohio Stadium, there are currently seven other ICC matches set to take place in the United States this summer.
But for one day, the soccer world will turn its attention to Ohio’s capital city.
“Soccer is the world’s sport … so on July 27, all eyes, literally around the world, will be tuned in to Columbus,” Loughnane said. “No matter what time a day it is in Europe, or elsewhere throughout the world, Columbus will be the focus.”