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Penn State's Beaver Stadium could play host to game featuring European soccer powerhouses

Centre Daily Times (TNS)

Imagine Lionel Messi wheeling away in celebration after scoring a goal under the lights at Beaver Stadium.

International soccer stars, such as Argentina's Lionel Messi, shown above, could soon be featured in a game at Penn State's Beaver Stadium. AP FILE PHOTO

Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour wants a vision like that to become real.

Barbour said Tuesday that Penn State and International Champions Cup officials have discussed bringing a friendly soccer match to Happy Valley in the past — and that interest has not gone away.

“We will continue to talk to them,” Barbour said at Big Ten media days. “I think that would be a great event to have in Beaver Stadium.”

For those unfamiliar, the International Champions Cup is an annual preseason tour in which club teams from Europe travel to the United States — and other cities across Europe and Asia — for exhibition games. The competition, which was founded five years ago, has been successful in attracting the world’s premier clubs. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Bayern Munich and 12 other teams are on this summer’s tour.

Barbour has expressed interest in hosting the NHL’s Winter Classic at Beaver Stadium in the past, but holding an International Champions Cup might be more reasonable to pull off in the short-term.

Barbour said Tuesday that Penn State’s Facilities Master Plan is making noticeable fundraising progress. Still, renovations to Beaver Stadium are a long ways away.

Plus, there is already a successful blueprint in place. Michigan Stadium, the home of the Wolverines, hosted Real Madrid and Manchester United in 2014 to a U.S. soccer-record crowd of 109,318. Michigan officials signed on again and are welcoming Man U and Liverpool on Saturday.

Of course, if Penn State hosts a game before its expected capacity decrease via renovations, Beaver Stadium could break that record.

“It’s not like we’re going to throw our hat in the ring for every single thing that’s out there,” Barbour said. of hosting non-football events at the venue. “It’s got to fit for us. It’s got to be right for our community. It’s got to be right for our facility. It’s got to check all the boxes. ... Not every event is going to fit our desires.”

But apparently, the International Champions Cup does.