As part of an effort to build soccer's popularity in the United States, Real Madrid - the Spanish soccer team that has been dubbed the most successful club of the 20th century - is taking a brief preseason tour of California, playing Major League Soccer teams. Among the stops next week will be games against Club America in San Francisco on Aug. 4 and against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Aug. 7 at the Rose Bowl.
In addition to generating excitement for the sport, at least along the West Coast, pitting Real Madrid and MLS teams against each other also benefits the University of California at Los Angeles, where Real Madrid is currently practicing. Stars such as forward Cristiano Ronaldo (pictured) and defenders Pepe and Marcelo Vieira kicked soccer balls and ran scrimmages yesterday on the enclosed field behind UCLA's John Wooden Center. Other players, such as midfielder Kaka, are due to arrive next week.
UCLA's athletic facilities and fields have become a destination for European soccer teams ever since English club Chelsea trained at the campus in 2005. "The teams like UCLA because there's good airport access, it's close to Beverly Hills and we have great athletic facilities," says Richard Mylin, associate director of UCLA Cultural and Recreational Affairs.
Such high-profile visits also are lucrative for the campus because the teams pay a rental fee to use the field and other locations, cover the wages of UCLA employees who staff the visits and pay all other costs - including parking.