The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that AC Milan, which has been searching for an opponent for a friendly in early August at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, is now targeting Newcastle for a match on Friday, Aug. 3. Originally Milan had broached plans for a Pittsburgh match the following day, but that's been changed to accommodate the Women's Football Alliance National Championship, which will be hosted at Heinz by the Pittsburgh Passion on Saturday, Aug. 4. "The match against Newcastle is not finalized, but moving the game back one day could help facilitate a deal," says the Post-Gazette report.
For English and international readers who may not be familiar, Heinz Field is home of the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers and U.S. college football's Pitt Panthers. The stadium seats 65,000 and is positioned spectacularly at the confluence of the Allegheny and Ohio rivers near downtown Pittsburgh. One soccer blogger has made the case that Heinz could become American soccer's equivalent to Wembley, but Pittsburgh, a hotbed of American-style football, isn't widely known for its soccer following. The city is home to the Passion and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of USL Pro, U.S. soccer's third division, with a new 3,500-seat stadium in the works to house both clubs. Chelsea and Roma played a friendly at Heinz in 2004 as part of the ChampionsWorld Series tour of top European clubs.
Newcastle had previously been in the mix for a friendly this summer against the MLS All Stars at the other end of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia. That was scuttled by uncertainty late in the Premier League season over Newcastle's potential European schedule, with Chelsea being tabbed instead for the All-Star game. Pittsburgh offers similar advantages for Newcastle, relative to last year's U.S. sojourn: a location nearer to other major population centers for easier domestic travel should additional matches materialize, and less risk of oppressive heat than cauldrons like Orlando and Kansas City (though nearly any U.S. city, including Pittsburgh, can roast in the sun on a given summer day).
Stay tuned for more (hopefully good) news about a return to America for Newcastle.