Since July 18, 497,846 fans have filled eight U.S. stadiums for games involving a dozen club and national teams. And that's not counting the fans that gathered for the Sunday's Concacaf Gold Cup final and World Football Challenge games. The numbers don't lie about the growing interest for the game in the USA, particularly for high-profile foreign club teams. On Tuesday, 81,224 saw European runner-up Chelsea defeat Serie A champ Inter Milan at the Rose Bowl in the World Football Challenge. The next night in Atlanta, for that same tournament, 53,600 watched Club America beat AC Milan in U.S. defender Oguchi Onyewu
's debut for the Rossoneri. Even Baltimore sold out the 71,008-seat M&T Bank Stadium for Friday night's Challenge match between Chelsea and AC Milan.
Barcelona and Real Madrid are next with five games scheduled over nine days beginning Saturday. Both clubs have made big splashes in the transfer market this summer. Real Madrid will bring its $284 million trio of Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo and French striker Karim Benzema for friendlies at Toronto FC on Aug. 7 and D.C. United on Aug. 9.
Madrid is having trouble offloading its excess talent, with Dutch attackers Arjen Robben and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar among those on the block. Barcelona, meanwhile, is on the verge of completing a blockbuster deal with Inter Milan that will see Zlatan Ibrahimovic come to Barcelona in return for Cameroonian international Samuel Eto'o.
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