Wrexham Is Coming for You, America

Wrexham game at 51K-capacity stadium in North Carolina sold out in days
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 19, 2023 1:25 PM CDT
Wrexham Is Coming for You, America
Members of the Wrexham FC soccer team ride on an open top bus as they celebrate promotion to the Football League in Wrexham, Wales, Tuesday, May 2, 2023.   (AP Photo/Jon Super, file)

Three years ago, Wrexham AFC was a relatively obscure Welsh team struggling in the lower reaches of the English soccer leagues. Today, it launches a US tour with a game against Chelsea in North Carolina—and excitement is running high. The 51,000-capacity Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, home of the University of North Carolina, sold out in days, and organizers say tickets were sold to fans from all 50 states and overseas, the Athletic reports. The team, which was bought by Ryan Reynolds and fellow actor Rob McElhenney in 2021, moved up a division with a dramatic win in April.

  • How they got here. The AP looks at how the team and manager Phil Parkinson became "household names" after the Hollywood stars got involved. The hit Welcome to Wrexham docuseries brought them fame, and deals with major companies like United Airlines.

  • The tour. Wrexham plays Chelsea at 7:30pm Wednesday. The US tour will also include games against Manchester United, LA Galaxy II, and Philadelphia Union II at venues in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Pennsylvania, per the AP.
  • A $15M boost for the local economy. Aaron Nelson, president of The Chamber For a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro, tells WRAL that the game will be an economic windfall for the area. "We're expecting to see over $15 million in economic impact," he says. "And that's going to be spent on traveling to get here, staying in your hotel, buying swag and checking out some of our local merchants in Carrboro and Chapel Hill."
  • "All the lads are blown away by it." Team representatives spoke to the media Tuesday, saying that while they're not loving the heat and humidity, the facilities and hospitality are great. "It's so impressive," Parkinson said, per Chapelboro.com. "The university campus is just amazing. The facilities are incredible. All the lads are blown away by it. And we've been very well-looked-after as well, I have to say that. They've been so welcoming and can't do enough for us, which is great."
  • Wrexham's appeal. Laurie Paolicelli, executive director of Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau, tells the Athletic that a lot of people felt a connection with Wrexham's story because they grew up in working-class towns that loved their sports teams. "In my town's case, it was the Green Bay Packers. That sense of success gives people pride. It brings them together. That's why the Wrexham story is so popular. Wrexham are the big underdog," she says. She adds: "It also doesn't hurt that their owners are so handsome."
  • The turf argument resurfaces. This is the first international soccer match the stadium has ever hosted, and the entire field had to be sodded. NPR looks at the perennial argument over real versus artificial turf.
(More Wrexham FC stories.)

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