Welcome to the Rose Bowl for a game where the matchups are made up and the points don’t matter.
The Galaxy is playing here tonight in a midseason friendly, but you wouldn’t know it from the crowd. The red of Manchester United dominated the stands by a factor of at least five, and you’d have been hard pressed to find a group of Galaxy supporters larger than four walking around the concourse before the game.
Which is exactly what Los Angeles wanted. Manchester United is a global brand, one of the most powerful sports franchises in the world. The Galaxy is not.
Because of this, it’s a win-win for the Major League Soccer club. The result of the game doesn’t matter and there are unlimited substitutions, which means Man U stars won’t play the full 90 minutes and won’t try to score 100 goals. The Galaxy gets the experience of playing against a world-class club, and it doesn’t hurt the pocketbooks that the team is expecting 70,000 to 80,000 fans Wednesday.
For perspective, the Galaxy averages almost 21,000 fans a game at the StubHub Center, a tick above the MLS average of 18,500.
It’s expected, and almost doesn’t matter, that most of those fans are wearing red.
In a FanFest set up before the game outside one of the main entrances of the stadium, the Manchester United side was almost full. The Galaxy side had supporters, but also had two tents full of girls wearing shorts and shirts that were, let’s say, tighter and shorter than regulation. Besides the girls, the tents were empty.
To get into the stadium through the main gate, the line was seven deep and hundreds of people long. Songs and chants for the visiting team cut through the smoke of fans getting one last puff in before entering. One concerned fan asked anyone he could find whether noisemakers were allowed.
Around the concourse, there were soccer jerseys from around the world. Ireland. England. Colombia.
Man U, though, had fans wearing every version of their jersey imaginable. Home, away, new, old, special edition -- they were all there. Of all the makeshift tents set up to sell beer and food, the ones with the longest lines, by far, were the ones hawking official Manchester United merchandise.
There were empty seats when the game started, but it was still an impressive turnout for a Wednesday night in one of the largest venues in the country. No offense to the Galaxy, but the soccer fans were there for Manchester.
Whose stadium is this anyway?