Bob Lenarduzzi Paul Barber

English Premier League giants make summer visit to Vancouver

Soccer fans in Vancouver woke up Thursday morning to the news that one of the world's biggest clubs will be visiting Canada's west coast this summer.

At a press conference at Empire Field, Vancouver Whitecaps FC announced that English Premier League (EPL) giants Manchester City FC would play the Major League Soccer outfit in an international friendly on the Pacific National Exhibition grounds this summer. The 'Caps will host Roberto Mancini's side on Monday, July 18, at 7 p.m. PT on Bell Pitch at Empire Field as part of the 2011 World Football Challenge. Whitecaps FC will install natural grass at Empire Field for the international friendly.

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"July 18th should be a fantastic summer's evening, and particularly at Empire Field," said Whitecaps FC chief executive officer Paul Barber. "We're expecting a very big crowd and I'm sure they'll enjoy seeing the match being played on natural grass. Manchester City have emerged as one of the English Premier League's most exciting clubs. They certainly are one of the most glamourous clubs in the world and have a galaxy of big-name stars that populate their squad. They have a very talented manager in Roberto Mancini and a fantastic stadium in the City of Manchester Stadium, which played host to the Commonwealth Games back in 2002."

Owned by Abu Dhabi billionaire Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan since September 2008, Manchester City FC are considered the wealthiest club in world soccer, with Mancini's squad including some of soccer's top talents. They include Argentine striker Carlos Tevez, Spanish World Cup winner David Silva, and Ivory Coast brothers Kolo and Yaya Toure. City have also have some of England's top players like goalkeeper Joe Hart, and midfielders Gareth Barry, Adam Johnson, and Shaun Wright-Phillips. Many of these names will be familiar to soccer fans in Vancouver, with weekly EPL coverage being the norm across Canada for the past several years.

Whitecaps FC season ticket holders will receive tickets for the July 18 friendly as a special bonus, with the Blue and White still selling 2011 season tickets at a pro-rated price until the end of this month. "By hosting this exciting friendly match, we wanted to thank our fans, as they have been absolutely fantastic to us since the start of this season," Barber said at Thursday's press conference. "As a special thank you to our fans, we are providing the Manchester City game to our season tickets holders as a bonus, as they will be our guests on July 18."

The July friendly will be the third time that Whitecaps FC and Manchester City have played other in a friendly, and on the site of Vancouver's current home. In 1980, the two clubs played each other in the Trans-Atlantic Challenge Tournament, with the 'Caps defeating a Malcolm Allison-led City squad 5-0 at the old Empire Stadium. The following season, the two clubs met again at Empire Stadium, with Whitecaps FC winning 2-0. "With the two results that we've had against them, City have yet to score against us, so I'm sure they will want to remedy that when they arrive in the summer," said Whitecaps FC president Bob Lenarduzzi.

Tickets for the July 18 friendly between Whitecaps FC and Manchester City FC will be valued at $60 each, with individual match ticket availability to be announced at a later date.