The largest French-speaking city in the world outside of Paris will get to see another famous French club in July at Saputo Stadium.Montreal is getting a soccer festival this summer.
After it was confirmed earlier this week that Serie A champions Juventus would play Ligue 1 runners up Paris Saint-Germain in a preseason friendly on July 31 at the Olympic Stadium, the Montreal Impact announced on Wednesday that it would play French Cup winners Olympique Lyonnais in an exhibition on July 24 at Saputo Stadium.
“We are very pleased to be hosting in Montreal a prestigious club like Olympique Lyonnais,” said Impact president Joey Saputo in a press release. “We are pleased to further our relationship with France’s Ligue 1 and grow our relationship across the Atlantic.
“This game is a great example. It is important for us to organize international matches like we’ve done in the past. We want to continue to build Montreal as an important market in North America for international games.”
The Impact aren't by any means strangers to French football.
In 2009, the team hosted erstwhile Ligue 1 champions Girondins de Bordeaux, and Montreal had the Trophée des Champions - the French Super Cup - final between Bordeaux and En Avant de Guingamp at the Olympic Stadium. Philippe Eullafoy, the Impact’s academy director and Under-21 coach, played professional soccer in France for seven years and coached the Stade de Reims and Troyes professional club academies from 1999 to 2005.
“Olympique Lyonnais is very happy to be playing a friendly against the most francophone team in Major League Soccer: the Montreal Impact,” said Olympique Lyonnais President Jean-Michel Aulas. “With this game, we hope to build a strong relationship with our friends at the Impact, a club that is having a good inaugural season in MLS and who has an incredible fan base.”
Impact head coach Jesse Marsch spoke to the media on Wednesday about his recollections of playing visiting European teams during his playing career, and explained that getting a chance to play top European clubs was always a positive experience and one that everyone looks forward to.
“It’s a chance to play against some quality players, a quality team, and its an exciting moment for the city and an exciting moment for our team to play against a good opponent," said Marsch.
“I remember the different teams that I’ve watched over the years. We had a chance to play Milan in Chicago, I watched LA play Real Madrid, Chelsea, those are always exciting times for the fans and the players."
After playing the Impact midweek, Lyon will then face this year's Ligue 1 winners Montpellier four days later in New York for the French Super Cup.
AC Milan is also rumored to take on Real Madrid this summer in Montreal, though nothing has been confirmed.