Scott Fowler

Charlotte scores big – again – with soccer

Fans celebrate the sudden death between Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea during the International Champions Cup soccer match vs at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Saturday, July 25, 2015. Chelsea defeated Paris Saint-Germain on penalty kicks.
Fans celebrate the sudden death between Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea during the International Champions Cup soccer match vs at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Saturday, July 25, 2015. Chelsea defeated Paris Saint-Germain on penalty kicks. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Futbol took over Bank of America’s football stadium for the second time this month Saturday night, and once again Charlotte proved it can host world-class soccer events with aplomb.

Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea provided the sort of soccer you generally have to fly across the Atlantic Ocean to see, and once again the crowd was impressive.

The Gold Cup doubleheader July 15 that featured both Mexico and Cuba drew 55,823 to Cam Newton’s stomping grounds. This game drew even more – 61,224 fans.

Yes, the crowd was very large for what was basically a glorified exhibition that first ended in a 1-1 tie and then was decided on an entertaining series of penalty kicks (with Chelsea winning). The game drew far more actual fans in actual seats than your run-of-the-mill Carolina Panthers’ preseason game, for instance. But it couldn’t outdraw 2014’s version of the same thing, when Liverpool and AC Milan played in front of a staggering 69,364 fans in a similar exhibition in Charlotte.

▪  Like most sports, soccer’s athleticism at the highest level is much better appreciated up close. To watch PSG’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic with the ball (he scored the game’s first goal) or to see Chelsea’s Victor Moses (he scored the second) do a cartwheel followed by a flip is a whole lot of fun.

▪  As I say every time I see one of these games, Charlotte is ripe for a Major League Soccer franchise.

▪  Among the fans were several with ties to the other football: Carolina cornerback Josh Norman, safety Tre Boston and head coach Ron Rivera. Norman and Boston, in particular, are really into it. But I’d wager few in Charlotte know more about international soccer than Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford, who can discuss the intricacies of the England’s Premier League with the same ease that he can talk about pick-and-roll defense.

Fowler: 704-358-5140; sfowler@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @scott_fowler

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