Messi & dwindling list of friends will play in Chicago

By Paul Kennedy

Promoters of Saturday's charity game involving Lionel Messi and other soccer celebrities confirmed that it will take place at Chicago’s Soldier Field (kickoff: 6 p.m. CT).
In a statement, Messi was quoted as saying he was "glad I can be a part of it. While a similar match scheduled for Los Angeles earlier in the week was canceled due to irreconcilable issues with the local promoter, the Chicago event is officially confirmed to continue as planned, and is being independently organized."

A match scheduled for Wednesday in Los Angeles was canceled at the last minute when Messi pulled out. In a statement issued early Thursday morning, local game sponsors said they were in talks to reschedule the game, though they offered no details of when they could get Messi to fit the game into his busy schedule or how they would overcome the bad publicity of the original game's cancellation.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Messi pulled out of the Los Angeles match after a game Saturday in Medellin, Colombia, drew only 12,000 fans. Sources told the Los Angeles Times that Messi feared Alvaro Barco, the promoter of the Medellin and Los Angeles matches, would use the money generated from the Los Angeles match to pay debts for the Medellin game, leaving no money to go to Messi's foundation.
A different promoter is organizing the Chicago match at which such players as Carlos Bocanegra (who isn't eligible to play for Chivas USA until July 9) and Thierry Henry (whose New York Red Bulls are off this weekend) were scheduled to appear.

The list of 13 players was down from an original list of 36 advertised stars that included such players as Giovani Dos Santos and Robert Lewandowski, who would have been draws in Chicago's huge Mexican and Polish communities.

Four former players from Northwestern -- Gerardo Alvarez, Gerardo Blades, Mark Eliason and David Roth -- received invitations, as did incoming Wildcat freshman Brandon Medina. Their participation was an indication that Messi couldn't round up enough "friends" to complete the tour that began in Medellin and included a stop in Lima, Peru.

It has not been a good week on the summer exhibition circuit:

-- Mexico's Super Clasico degenerated into a super brawl as a mass fight among fans of Guadalajara and Club America broke out Wednesday night in the parking lot at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas before the match and it ended with fans invading the field and throwing beer bottles at each other.

-- Puebla, one of eight Mexican teams scheduled to play friendlies in the United States on Saturday, had to postpone its match against the NASL's Carolina RailHawks when its flight from Mexico was canceled due to a volcano eruption. U.S. airlines canceled flights to and from Mexico City on Thursday after the Popocatepetl Volcano spewed volcanic ash, steam and glowing rock.

PHOENIX FC DOWNSIZES. First-year USL PRO club Phoenix FC is cutting back the seating capacity at Sun Devil Soccer Stadium, home of the Arizona State women's team, from roughly 3,600 seats to the stadium's original capacity of 1,051 seats on the west side of the field, plus standing room availability around other sections of the stadium.

Phoenix FC, which is 12th ahead of only Antigua Barracuda FC in USL PRO with a 2-10-6 record, has averaged 2,209 fans for eight home dates.
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