Kabam! Real Madrid, Inter Milan to do battle at Memorial Stadium

Just two weeks after this year’s World Cup wraps up in Brazil — and almost two years after the reopening of the refurbished, revitalized and retrofitted California Memorial Stadium — Bay Area soccer fans will have their chance to see two of the top international clubs compete at UC Berkeley as part of the second annual Guinness International Champions Cup.

Sandy Barbour

Athletic Director Sandy Barbour (Photo by Kevin Ho Nguyen)

The July 26 match between Real Madrid and Inter Milan was announced at a Friday news conference at the stadium, whose $321 million renovation was key to its being named one of the venues for the eight-team tournament. A dozen round-robin matches, scheduled to run from July 24 to Aug. 2 — plus the championship match Aug. 4 in Miami — will be broadcast in more than 150 countries, and will be carried in the United States by Fox Sports and ESPN Deportes.

“This is one of the most beautiful stadiums I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been all over the world,” said Charlie Stillitano, chief executive officer of Relevent Sports, which operates the off-season soccer event. Were it not for the improvements made by the campus, he added, “we wouldn’t be here.”

That sentiment was echoed by Cal Athletic Director Sandy Barbour, who pronounced herself “thrilled” by what she called “a very exciting announcement for the university, for our athletic program and, frankly, for the evolution of Memorial Stadium.”

“This opportunity would not be possible — Charlie would not be with us today — without the campus’s investment in world-class facilities,” said Barbour.

Both she and John Wilton, Berkeley’s vice chancellor for administration and finance, emphasized the multifaceted nature of the opportunity — one they said would benefit not just sports fans, but would provide a boost to the university’s core educational mission as well as to the community’s finances.

“Hosting this event is part of our strategy for diversifying revenue, and putting the financial outlook for athletics on a more stable footing,” said Wilton, who noted the match would generate “at least” $25,000 for student scholarships, and possibly a good deal more. The campus will receive a guaranteed $100,000 licensing fee for renting the stadium, but Wilton suggested the total revenue generated from the event could conceivably be six to eight times higher, depending on ticket sales, parking, concessions and associated activities.

“This is sort of furthering the link, and reinforcing the notion that we don’t do academics or athletics, we do both,” he said. “And we do both at a high level of excellence.”

He also stressed the potential economic impact for neighboring businesses, especially during a month when many students are gone for the summer. Home football games are a substantial boon for local businesses, and Wilton predicted the campus’s unprecedented international soccer match — expected to draw a sellout crowd — would bring “really significant economic benefits to our neighbors” as well.

“Berkeley as a university, and Cal Athletics, represent the pursuit of excellence on a world-class level,” Barbour said. “And having the Guinness International Champions Cup come to campus, and particularly at Kabam Field at California Memorial Stadium, is a wonderful experience for our students, our faculty, our staff and the community at large.”

The eight teams set to compete in the Guinness Cup feature many of world’s top players, and Stillitano called Real Madrid and Inter Milan “two of the most famous clubs in the world.” Real Madrid won last year’s tournament on the strength of two goals from its star, Cristiano Ronaldo, who also captains the Portugal national team.

Kickoff for the Berkeley match is 3 p.m. Tickets for the general public go on sale Friday, May 16, while current Berkeley students, faculty and staff can take advantage of a special presale beginning at noon Wednesday, May 14.

For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit the Cal Athletics website.