Get ready for a summer of European soccer stars in North Carolina: Manchester City and Glasgow in Chapel Hill, July 23, 2024


By Laurie Paolicelli

Wrexham played Chelsea in July 2023 to a sold-out event at Kenan Stadium.

European football matches – to put it very lightly – are known for their enthusiastic and vocal fan bases, with chants, songs, and coordinated displays of support a regular occurrence. Get ready, then, for an atmosphere here in Chapel Hill that is sure to be intense and emotionally charged when two of Europe’s favorite football teams (“soccer” to Americans) will take center stage at Kenan Stadium, on the campus of the University of North Carolina, July 23, 2024.

Based on the success of hosting its first ever “European Friendly” in Chapel Hill in 2023, the event organizers – Florida Citrus and Unified Sports – wanted to return to the southern part of heaven. Their 2023 event not only proved successful for the economy, but it also brought a sense of community and spirit to the town in a summer month that is traditionally slow. Last year’s Wrexham vs. Chelsea game stunned everyone: the level of excitement and demand for tickets was off the charts.

When Wrexham and Chelsea took to the field in front of a crowd of 50,596 people at Kenan Stadium, it was clear to everyone how much Chapel Hill and all of North Carolina loves soccer. And many European clubs believe football in the United States has barely scratched the surface of its economic potential. 

What is a European Friendly?

European Friendlies on American soil means that there is nothing of note on the line other than bragging rights. Some of the rules are a bit different too. For instance, you can substitute to your heart’s content and games do not end in draws.

“Having an opportunity to watch some of the biggest clubs in the world, friendly game or not, was embraced by fans across the world last year,” said Laurie Paolicelli, Director of the Visitors Bureau. “Our streets were filled with international visitors who were fascinated by Chapel Hill.”

KHARKIV, UKRAINE – OCTOBER 22, 2018: FC Manchester City players celebrating goal scored by Spanish captain David Silva. Emotions of glory. UEFA Champions League Shakhtar-Manchester City.

Welcome Manchester City

Since its inception in 1880, Manchester City Football Club has developed a loyal and enthusiastic following – even in the U.S. Man City was the most-watched English team in all competitions in the U.S. in 2023, with their total average viewership hitting 36.9million. Only Club America of Mexico’s top-flight Liga MX did better.

A winning team, Manchester City has tallied thirty-four major honors throughout their history: nine league titles, seven FA Cups, eight League Cups, six FA Charity/Community Shields, one UEFA Champions League, one European Cup Winners’ Cup, one UEFA Super Cup, and one FIFA Club World Cup.

Fun fact: In 1894, facing a budgetary crisis, Manchester City Football Club was offered a helping hand by the Freemasons. In acknowledgement of the organization’s act of charity, the club adopted Masonic colors, giving them the light blue shirts that are so recognizable to football fans today.

Mascots, Moonchester and Moonbeam have a big following.

Moonchester, a spritely alien, is the mascot for Man City’s team. He and his partner Moonbeam love to get the crowd excited before the match.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: Celtic FC fans cheer during the match between Sydney and Celtic at Allianz Stadium on November 17, 2022 in Sydney, Australia

Celtic FC

Celtic is a Scottish professional football team based in Glasgow and playing in the Scottish Premiership. The club has won the Scottish league championship fifty-three times, most recently in 2022–23, the Scottish Cup 41 times, and the Scottish League Cup 21 times. The club’s famous green-and-white striped shirt uniform debuted in 1903.

Hoopy and Hailey are Celtic Football Club’s lovable mascots, popular with both adults and children. The Huddle Hound mascots are regulars at Celtic Park on matchdays, often out the pitch having fun with supporters before a big match.

Celtic Mascot Hoopy.

“We are thrilled to welcome international soccer fans back to Chapel Hill this summer for this fantastic event,” said Bubba Cunningham, Director of Athletics at UNC. “The atmosphere for last year’s game was outstanding, and we can’t wait to share our beautiful campus and Carolina community with even more visitors from around the world.”

This will be the third all-time meeting between these two championship clubs, with each team looking for its first series victory. The clubs drew in the two previous meetings as part of the UEFA Champions’ League Group Stages during the 2016-17 season.

Tickets available:

The towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro are planning festivities in July, 2024.

In addition to the excitement at Kenan, the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro are planning a week of activities downtown including photos with mascots, pop up tee-shirt sales, and local tailgating opportunities. There’s no doubt that the response this year will be as great if not greater than it was last. Chapel Hill and all of North Carolina can’t wait. Keep your eye on for more information.

Laurie Paolicelli is executive director for the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau, a position she has held since 2005. Laurie has worked in tourism and marketing for twenty-five years, having served in leadership roles in Houston and California convention and visitor bureaus. She is a native of the Twin Ports of Duluth, MN/Superior Wisconsin. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and Communications from the University Wisconsin-Superior and graduate certification in Technology In Marketing from the UNC-Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media.
This reporter can be reached at

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