A team from Spain’s top professional soccer league is planning to play an exhibition game in Boise next July against a Major League Soccer team.
Athletic Bilbao, a team of Basque players and players of Basque descent, sent a consultant to town in February and he was impressed with the city and its Basque community, said Argia Beristain, the game's Boise-based organizer.
No contracts have been signed and organizers still must raise money before they can finalize plans.
“This is an interesting opportunity for them,” Beristain said. “They have never played in the U.S. before.”
Athletic Bilbao would send its top players for the preseason game, Beristain said. La Liga is one of the premier soccer leagues in the world, home to soccer powers Real Madrid and Barcelona. Athletic finished a distant fourth in the 20-team league this season behind Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid. Athletic Bilbao qualified for the Champions League.
The game would be held July 29, 2015, at Albertsons Stadium (formerly Bronco Stadium) on Boise State’s campus in conjuction with the Jaialdi International Festival, a celebration of Basque culture which begins in Boise the next day.
Boise is home to one of the world’s largest Basque populations outside of the home country.
Seattle, Portland or Salt Lake would represent the MLS, depending on which team is available and not playing in a tournament.
“I feel very comfortable it will happen, but there are certainly things that need to fall into place,” said Skyler Bell, the state director of coaching at the Idaho Youth Soccer Association.
“I feel very confident. I’d put money down. There are logistics that need to get worked out. Fundraising is a big piece of it. We have the right people involved in working on that. I think that there are entities in and around the game and in and around Boise that will be excited to get on board. I don’t see it being a problem.”
Organizers are seeking sponsorships and donations to make the event possible, Beristain said. The game would benefit the Basque Studies Foundation in Boise.
“We need to build it so it will happen. It’s a grassroots community sort of event,” she said.
Organizers face at least one big logistical challenge: covering up the famous blue turf. The current plan is to put a temporary green grass field over the Broncos’ blue turf, Bell said.
Members of Athletic Bilbao’s women’s team will be in Boise next week, participating in a youth camp along with the Boise State women’s soccer team. Registration is still open for boys and girls ages 5 to 16.