Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Barcelona-Chivas game is largest attendance in FL

August 03, 2011 | By Suzette Laboy | Associated Press

MIAMI—It's enough to make the Florida Marlins envious. Sun Life Stadium expected a near-capacity crowd Wednesday night as sports fans poured in from across South Florida. But it's not baseball they were coming to see, nor even a U.S. team. It's "futbol"—and a friendly match between Spanish soccer power FC Barcelona and Mexico's los Chivas de Guadalajara.

The contest between two of the world's better known pro soccer teams drew a quick response from the region's deep pool of Hispanic fans. They snapped up more than 64,000 tickets in advance, far more than the average attendance at a Marlins baseball game in the same stadium.

Claudia Brabata, 39, of Cuernavaca, Mexico, said she would be on hand with 14 of her friends. The match was touted on several social media sites popular with Mexican expats.

"There are a lot of Mexican fans going," she said. "It's against an important team. It's going to be a good show."

More than 120,000 Mexicans live in South Florida, according to a 2009 U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey. While the region's Spanish population is relatively small, roughly 6,000 according to the survey, FC Barcelona is widely beloved among Hispanics. More than 2 million Hispanics live in the region consisting of Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach Counties—or about 41 percent of the population.

The friendly match-up is part of the 2011 Herbalife World Football Challenge. It seeks to capitalize on the
passion for soccer among immigrant communities in the U.S. by pairing up top teams from Europe, the United States and Mexico.

On Saturday, nearly 82,000 fans crowded into Maryland's FedEx Field—the largest soccer crowd ever in the Washington area—to see Manchester United beat Barcelona 2-1. Barcelona's final game in the tour will be this weekend against Mexico's Club America at Cowboy Stadium in Arlington, Texas. 

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