- The Washington Times - Friday, June 17, 2005

D.C. United will play one of the best-known soccer clubs in the world next month in a game dubbed the “Clash of Champions.”

The Washington club announced yesterday it will meet English Premier League champion Chelsea FC in an exhibition at FedEx Field on July 28 at 8 p.m. The match, which pits the champions of England and the United States against each other for the first time, is part of the World Series of Football sponsored by the Anschutz Entertainment Group and will be shown live on ESPN2. Billionaire Philip Anschutz operates United.

United’s home game against Real Salt Lake scheduled for July 28 has been moved to Aug. 31.

As part of the four-game series, Chelsea also will play Italian giant AC Milan at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., on July 24 and at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., a week later. Milan also will play the Anschutz-operated Chicago Fire at Soldier Field on July 27.

United will play Chelsea at FedEx rather than RFK Stadium because of the condition of the field at RFK, as well as FedEx’s seating capacity.

“FedEx Field is a much larger stadium [with about double RFK’s 45,000 seats],” said United president Kevin Payne. “It’s our belief that in the current situation, with us sharing the field with baseball, that RFK wasn’t appropriate to present to Chelsea.”

Payne said seats will be removed from around the field at FedEx to make it wide enough for an international soccer game.

Chelsea, which is owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, won the English championship in May beating out Arsenal and Manchester United. It was Chelsea’s second title and first since 1955. The club also reached the semifinals of the Europe’s Champions League.

While both teams are owned by billionaires and are champions of their respective nations, the similarities end there.

Since Abramovich took over Chelsea in July 2003, he has spent more than $1.3 billion on the London club. Last season Chelsea paid out $182 million in players’ salaries; D.C. United’s salary cap is $1.6 million.

United has played several English clubs over the years, including Leeds, Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle, Blackburn and Nottingham Forest, and has never lost, but Chelsea is certainly its biggest-name opponent to date.

“This will be a great opportunity for us to see what we are all about,” said United coach Peter Nowak.

Chelsea’s key players are John Terry and Frank Lampard, considered the best defender and midfielder in English soccer.

“Chelsea will not be taking this game as a given,” said club chief executive Peter Kenyon. “The fact that we are playing an MLS team shows how far U.S. soccer has progressed.”

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