The last time an international soccer icon came to New Jersey for a Major League Soccer game, it produced what many consider to be the greatest regular-season match in league history: A 5-4 victory by the New York Red Bulls over David Beckham and the L.A. Galaxy before a raucous 66,237 at the old Giants Stadium.
Red Bulls General Manager Marc de Grandpré remembers that match, played Aug. 18, 2007. He was in his first stint with the club. And, he admitted Monday that the thought of moving Saturday’s game between the Red Bulls and Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami CF team to MetLife Stadium, where it could be played before a similar-size crowd, did cross his mind.
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“I’m not gonna lie to you, it was definitely a thought that we had — for about a millisecond,” he said.
The cons to the idea were far greater than the pros, de Grandpré said.
For starters, it would entail moving the date of the game: A New York Giants-New York Jets preseason game already is scheduled for that night.
More than that, de Grandpré said it was important to deliver the experience the team’s fans — and sponsors — have grown to expect and appreciate at Red Bull Arena.
The capacity crowd of 25,000 — all of which are close to the field — will create a more dynamic event.
“Ultimately, we wanted to make sure that we delivered a true soccer experience for the fans in the area — for our team, for Inter Miami CF and for the community,” de Grandpré said. “We felt this was the best place to be.”
And then, there are the sponsors.
“They’ve been with us all along,” he said. “We want to make sure that they’re able to leverage this. They are part of our family. We wanted to make sure we keep that whole ecosystem literally engaged — and for them to be rewarded for being partners with us over the years.”
De Grandpré admitted the Beckham game is one of his most memorable experiences with the Red Bulls. (Interestingly, Beckham now owns Inter Miami CF.) He also is convinced that Red Bull Arena will provide an equally memorable moment for the league.
“We’re going to put on the most exciting event in the New York metro area for the season,” he said. “This is going to be the place to be.”