Two clubs with a rich history — Chelsea and Wrexham — will meet on Wednesday, July 19, in the first international soccer match in Kenan Stadium history and the first neutral-site meeting between the clubs.
We call it soccer, but in Britain, of course, it’s called football. A temporary grass field will be installed for the match.
“We are excited to bring Chelsea and Wrexham to Chapel Hill for this fun and historic event,” UNC athletics director Bubba Cunningham said in a release. “We look forward to welcoming fans from all over the world, filling Kenan Stadium and creating a fantastic atmosphere for international competition.”
Part of the intrigue for this game, other than large followings in the United States, is the American ownership of both clubs. North American owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney have revolutionized Wrexham. “Welcome to Wrexham”, an FX documentary series, is about their purchase of the team and its ups and downs as it borders on promotion to League Two for the first time in over a decade. Despite playing in the fifth tier, the club pulls in massive audiences for both game viewership and social media. The two Hollywood stars have become well-loved figures in North Wales after taking over as club owners at the Racecourse Ground in February 2021. They have both made it clear, since day one, that they would eventually love to take Wrexham to the Premier League, although they are under no illusions that it is a very tough task.
Wrexham was founded in 1864.The Red Dragons are one of the oldest football teams in the world. For perspective, Abraham Lincoln was about to start his second presidential term, in 1864, when Wrexham was founded. The club’s ground is the oldest international stadium still in use in the world.
“Our tour of the United States will be an exciting part of the summer’s build-up to the new season and something we will all be looking forward to in July,” Wrexham AFC manager Phil Parkinson said. “To have the opportunity to play a team of Chelsea’s caliber at the Kenan Stadium, North Carolina, will be a terrific test for our players and form an important part of our preparations for the 2023/24 season. We’re looking forward to meeting some of the fans who have supported us so passionately from afar this season at a renowned athletics stadium.”
Todd Boehly is co-owner and chairman of Premier League football club Chelsea. Boehly is co-founder, chairman, chief executive officer and controlling member of Eldridge Industries, a holding company headquartered in Greenwich, Connecticut. He is also the interim CEO of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
Founded in 1905, Chelsea is London’s most central football club, based at the iconic 41,000-capacity Stamford Bridge stadium.
“We are delighted to return to North Carolina as part of our U.S. tour this summer and play in what I’m sure will be a fantastic atmosphere at Kenan Stadium,” said Tom Glick, Chelsea president of business. “Our strong U.S. fanbase support us incredibly all year round, and we are looking forward to meeting them in Chapel Hill.”
When Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney bought the Wrexham Team, Reynolds was far from a die-hard soccer fan. But when his love for the Wrexham players, as well as his fascination with soccer hit, things changed.
“It is a horrible, cyclical, prophetic hellscape that never ceases or ebbs,” he told the New York Times. “I love every second, but it’s torment in equal measure. Every second is pure agony. It’s a new experience for me. I am in awe of people who have survived in that culture their whole lives.”
Town and area leaders are gearing up for an exciting match. Fans of football and the riveting FX series – the “Drive to Survive” of the football world – will be hoping for a dazzling and competitive display from two of the most talented and talked about teams in Great Britain. And that it’s happening here is testament once again to the national and international appeal of this town we call home, Chapel Hill.
Robert McNabb, Hartford, is an avid soccer fan and a big fan of Chapel Hill. His wife completed her graduate work at UNC and Rob played soccer for Bucknell. He’s excited that the Chelsea vs. Wrexham game will be played at Kenan. “I love the passion of the fans. I love the friendly rivalry. To have these two teams playing at Kenan Stadium in July is fantastic and something to look forward to.”
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