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Chelsea and Wrexham to face off in UNC's Kenan Stadium this summer

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From left to right: Shaun Harvey, David Barnard, Molly Pendleton, Ricardo Villar, Anson Dorrance, Mack Brown and Grant Porter pose together at a press conference announcing the July 2023 match between Chelsea F.C. and Wrexham A.F.C. on April 20, 2023.

For the first time in its history, Kenan Stadium will host an international soccer match.

On Thursday, UNC Athletics and the Florida Cup (FC) Series announced that Chelsea Football Club and Wrexham Association Football Club will face each other in Chapel Hill on July 19. Tickets will go on sale on April 27, and a portion of sales will be donated to the Pediatric Hematology Oncology Clinic at UNC Children's Hospital.

Representatives from the two clubs, as well as UNC football head coach Mack Brown and women's soccer Coach Anson Dorrance, addressed the media from the field of Kenan Stadium.

"The energy of the campus, the tradition, the history — it is a great honor for us to be hosting one of the first really international events here in sports in the temple that really produces some of the world's greats such as (Michael) Jordan, Mia Hamm across so many multiple sports," FC Series CEO Ricardo Villar said.

Chelsea plays in the Premier League, which is the top level of English football. The Blues have a sizable following in the U.S. and have a history in North Carolina. Most recently, the club played a friendly match against Charlotte Football Club in front of about 75,000 fans at Bank of America Stadium last July.

Wrexham plays in the fifth division of the English football league system, but made headlines in 2020 when Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney bought the Welsh club. The team's story was documented in the FX series "Welcome to Wrexham," which premiered in August.

Shaun Harvey, who sits on Wrexham's board of directors, said Reynolds and McElhenney were "100 percent committed" to Wrexham, but he couldn't confirm that they would be in attendance for the match in July.

Harvey also said that this match would be the club's debut on American soil.

"This is about Wrexham coming out to the U.S.A.," he said. "So we actually bring what we're trying to achieve to everybody who's been so supportive of the club through the documentary."

Kenan Stadium has played host to soccer matches before, notably in 1981 when Dorrance and the women's soccer team won its first national title. On Thursday, Dorrance praised the organizers of the Chelsea-Wrexham match and said that he will use it to his advantage to court top recruits.

"We're absolutely going to use this in recruiting," he said.

There's still work to be done before Kenan Stadium will be soccer ready. Gary Paczesny, UNC's assistant athletic director of communications and creative services, said that the University's groundskeepers will convert the stadium's turf field into true grass ahead of the match.

"Once this is probably re-turfed and becomes dressed as a soccer stadium, you can actually feel, now, the vibes come that day when it is a soccer stadium," David Barnard, director of football operations at Chelsea, said. "For that one day, it will be totally fantastic."

@lucasthomae

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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Lucas Thomae

Lucas Thomae is the 2023-24 sports managing editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as an assistant sports editor and summer editor. Lucas is a senior pursuing a major in journalism and media with a minor in data science.