This year’s European cup competition finals will showcase stadiums American fans may not have seen before.
The Europa League final will see Manchester United take on Dutch side Ajax on Wednesday at Friends Arena in Sweden. The Champions League final, Real Madrid versus Juventus, will be played at the National Stadium of Wales in Cardiff on June 3.
Europa League final site Friends Arena, located just a few miles north of Stockholm city center in Solna, opened in 2012. Built for around $330 million dollars, it has a capacity for football of 50,000, but it is multi-purpose, holding up to 65,000 for other events and concerts. The stadium is home to the Swedish national team as well as Swedish football club AIK.
Because of the varied weather in Sweden, the arena features a retractable roof for cold weather, and an air conditioning system for the warmer months. It also features a lighted facade that can facilitate 17 million different color combinations, and a 240 square meter media cube mounted above the pitch.
There is some interesting football trivia surrounding Solna and Friends Arena. After Wednesday’s game, Solna will be the first city to have held the final for all four of the major UEFA events – the World Cup (1958), the Women’s World Cup (1995), the European Cup Winners Cup (precursor of the Champions League – 1998) and the Europa League final. All three of the previous events were held at the Rasunda Stadium, which made way for Friends Arena upon its opening. Another trivia fact – – in the first game staged at Friends Arena in 2012, Swedish football’s national hero Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored all four of his country’s goals in a 4-2 friendly win against England.
This year’s Champions League final will also be held at a venue that is probably unfamiliar to most Americans – the National Stadium of Wales. The National Stadium (formerly known as the Millennium Stadium and currently named Principality Stadium) opened in 1999, and has a capacity of 74,500. The major tenants are the Welsh national football and rugby teams.
The National Stadium also has a retractable roof – made up of two sliding 400 ton sections – making it the largest soccer stadium by capacity with a retractable roof, and the second largest retractable roof stadium in the world, second only to the Dallas Cowboys’ (NFL) AT&T Stadium.
The stadium has hosted a number of high profile events: 11 football matches during the 2012 London Olympics, the English FA Cup final from 2001 to 2006 during the renovation of London’s Wembley Stadium, as well as the 1999 Rugby World Cup final.
The 2017 UEFA Women’s Champions League final will also be played in Cardiff, on June 1st, across town at Cardiff City Stadium. The women’s final is all-French this year, with holders Lyon facing PSG.
The 2018 venues for the UEFA championship games have also been selected. The men’s and women’s Champions League finals will both be played in Kiev, Ukraine in 2018 – the men at NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium, and the women at Valeriy Lobanovskyi Dynamo Stadium. Next year’s Europa League final will be played in Lyon, France at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais.
Image courtesy of Principality Stadium.