Famed Lambeau Field is taken over this weekend by the 2 best teams in soccer
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
A different kind of football is taking over the home of the Green Bay Packers this weekend, the beautiful game. For the first time, Lambeau Field welcomes two of the world's top soccer teams. Maayan Silver of member station WUWM in Milwaukee has more.
MAAYAN SILVER, BYLINE: Goals have been put up, yard lines redrawn and Packer fans want anyone coming to Lambeau Field to know it's hallowed ground.
SILVER: Here's Packer fan Nathan Ambrosius.
NATHAN AMBROSIUS: It's magical, it is. When you walk into that stadium...
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GO PACK GO!")
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Go, Pack, go.
AMBROSIUS: ...November, cold, snowing, you're bundled to the gills, there's nothing you can compare it to. You can't beat it.
SILVER: This Saturday night, in markedly warmer weather, the arena opens its doors and its carefully coiffed grass turf to two of the world's top soccer teams. Taking the field are Bayern Munich, the most successful team in German history, and Manchester - or Man City for short - the reigning English Premier League champions. Fans of both teams break out into song during matches.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Singing) This is always happening and, oh (ph)...
SILVER: It's a pre-season friendly match since Lambeau isn't big enough for a regulation-sized soccer field. But the 81,000-seat stadium is expected to be at or near capacity. The Packers already have an international almost cult following. But the reach of these soccer teams is next level, says Gabrielle Dow of the Packers.
GABRIELLE DOW: Because - and no disrespect for the NFL and everything that the NFL stands for. It is a great brand. And the Packers are, you know, one of the top teams in the NFL. But when you look at Bayern and Man City and their fan base, I mean, it's worldwide.
SILVER: Bayern Munich boasts more than 33 million Instagram followers versus the Packers' cool 2.5 million. Bayern connects with fans and Twitter accounts in multiple languages, fans like Green Bay local Ethan Ahnen. On a recent July night, he and Man City fan Brian Buntman were at the classic Green Bay watering hole called the Bar. Ahnen says the exhibition game is a dream come true.
ETHAN AHNEN: It never crossed my mind ever that any soccer teams would come here from Europe. Every year, they come to the U.S. But they always hit, like, LA, Chicago, New York, like ones with, like, MLS stadiums in it.
SILVER: Fans will arrive at the game this weekend from around Wisconsin, the Midwest and the world, like Nigel Gregory from England. He's part of an elite group of Man City fans and has seen the team play in 39 different countries.
NIGEL GREGORY: It's great to come over to somewhere like this, see somewhere new, experience a different culture and relax and just enjoy the football.
SILVER: One thing to expect, a good tailgate. Lambeau is known for extraordinary cookouts with thousands and thousands of people. And some of those Green Bay locals will be drawn to the game out of curiosity, says Ahnen, the local Bayern fan.
AHNEN: My family doesn't watch soccer, but they're all coming because they just want to see, like, this big, historical event. And they're not going to know what to do (laughter). They're just going to be like, oh, yeah, he kicked the ball. Nice (laughter).
SILVER: Soccer is picking up in Green Bay. There are many leagues to choose from and a Division 1 NCAA soccer program. But in Green Bay, even the fire hydrants are green and gold. Alexander Alberts is from the city and he's fluent in German. He'll be translating for one of the Bayern delegations.
ALEXANDER ALBERTS: Put it this way, if soccer can make it in Green Bay, Wis., in the United States, it can make it anywhere in this country.
ALBERTS: So it's kind of a test to that.
SILVER: It's tough to kick a soccer ball in snow. But an exhibition game in July is a good start. For NPR News, I'm Maayan Silver in Green Bay.
(SOUNDBITE OF COVET'S "FALKOR") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.