I received an email yesterday from Detroit City FC announcing an international friendly against Italian side Venezia on June 18. Le Rouge are no stranger to European opponents, they played FC United of Manchester last season and will take on Glentoran of Northern Ireland over Memorial Day weekend this year. The club taking on a team from Italy owned by Americans isn’t anything out of the ordinary. Plus, it’s a chance for the Northern Guard and the Detroit City faithfull to get rowdy for their club one extra time this summer, and nobody will ever complain about that.
Detroit City FC Friendly a Sign of Cooperation with MLS Expansion
What piqued my curiosity was one little line in the email about corporate sponsorship: “The international match is presented by Quicken Loans and the Detroit Pistons.” That’s Quicken Loans, led by Dan Gilbert, and the Detroit Pistons, owned by Tom Gores, the two men spearheading the efforts to bring an MLS franchise to the city of Detroit.
I wrote about the often strained relations between the local NPSL club’s supporters and the MLS expansion efforts a little over a month ago. I said the two sides are a perfect pair that each provide what the other is looking for. They just needed to hook up and both the dream of turning DCFC professional and the MLS group gaining some clout with the local soccer community would come true. This tiny little corporate sponsorship is a sign that I wasn’t as crazy as I first thought.
The Gilbert and Gores billionaire team is clearly hoping to use this event to increase it’s reputation among the local soccer fan base. While there is a lot of support for MLS in the city, the most vocal fans take a cynical approach to the current expansion effort. They see it as nothing more than a money making ploy, and a scheme to expand the already vast holdings of two filthy rich individuals as opposed to a means to developing soccer in the city and surrounding area. This very well could be true. American capitalism knows no bounds and rich folks will always look to get even richer.
This sponsorship is a means to reach the cynics and show they do care about the game of soccer in the community. I can’t imagine it’s going to work as well as they want, but I also think it’s only the start of something bigger. It’s just too early to tell whether it’s just more sponsorships or an actual chance for the two sides to partner up.
Detroit City FC won’t complain at this juncture. They need more revenue to fulfill their professional ambitions and they best way to do that is secure valuable local sponsors and play more matches. Allowing Quicken Loans and the Pistons to throw a party like this one will do both. The club has been linked with both the NASL and USL in the past, but cannot afford to make the jump to either at this moment in time, and they never will without the help of rich guys like Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores.
The timing of this particular match is also carefully planned. The night after this friendly will feature Paris Saint-Germain and AS Roma taking each other on at Comerica Park downtown. It’s obvious that this international friendly is hoping to cash in on some of the momentum leading up to the first ever major European match within the city limits. It’s going to make for a fun two nights of soccer in the area.
There is still a long, long way to go for the two to officially go into business together, but this is a sign that they can, in fact, join forces to create something, even something as small as an amatuer American team taking on a second tier side from Italy. This relatively small event proves each side has what the other needs. Gilbert and Gores have the money and business sense while Detroit City has the soccer community behind them. This match is a promotion for both sides, and if it goes well, who can say what that will lead to in the future?