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Kenan shines as Chelsea defeats Wrexham in preseason friendly

Fans packed the house to see a European powerhouse and TV darling square off.

Chelsea FC v Wrexham - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Kenan Stadium has hosted UNC football, North Carolina high school state finals, men’s lacrosse, and Bruce Springsteen. Add Chelsea and Wrexham AFC to the list.

The two British clubs—one a European power from west London, the other a recent promotee out of the National League (fifth tier of English football) from Wales—are not natural bedfellows. But anyone who knows anything about soccer (particularly women’s college soccer) knows that Chapel Hill is a destination for the beautiful game enthusiast. What better place to host a preseason friendly as part of the Florida Cup (FC) Series, a set of matches that brings English clubs to America.

It’s been a busy week for Chelsea and Wrexham. They’ve held open practices at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary and both clubs had fan zones on campus to bring supporters together before kick-off. Fans from around the country and the world descended on Blue Heaven, and the event could not be described as anything but a success.

Over 50,000 fans packed Kenan Stadium for a game that pitted a bloated Chelsea squad that finished 12th in the Premier League against a newly promoted League 2 team, albeit one that is becoming outwardly famous thanks to the FX series “Welcome to Wrexham.” Despite the lack of a marquee draw, fans still flocked to Chapel Hill to get a glimpse of top-flight football.

Chelsea won going away 5-0, and the contest was never in doubt despite the Blues starting a lot of players that will likely be loaned out before the season. Ian Maatsen scored in the third minute, and was named player of the match after he scored his second (team high) in the 42nd minute. Conor Gallagher, Christopher Nkunku, and Ben Chilwell all scored as well. For his efforts, Maatsen got to meet Mack Brown and Hubert Davis after the match:

Last night proved that Chapel Hill can be a dependable destination for future summer friendlies. With RDU nearby and plenty of empty July hotels in the area, there’s no reason why more teams shouldn’t schedule their exhibitions in Chapel Hill.