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AC Milan, Liverpool game at Levi’s Stadium gives local fans a taste for international soccer

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AC Milan’s M’baye Niang (11) celebrates with teammates Andrea Bertolacci, left, and Giacomo Bonaventura, right, after scoring a goal against Bayern Munich during their match Wednesday in Chicago. (Paul Beaty/AP)

The Bay Area’s summer of soccer will cap off with European flair this weekend.

AC Milan and Liverpool FC will match up in an International Champions Cup meeting at Levi’s Stadium Saturday night.

This comes on the heels of a full slate of highly regarded international and domestic soccer events that have been featured this summer at both Levi’s Stadium and Avaya Stadium, home of the San Jose Earthquakes.

On Thursday, Major League Soccer’s all-star squad faced England’s Arsenal FC in the South Bay and lost the exhibition match 2-1.

Levi’s hosted four Copa America matches earlier this summer. Already with a reputation as one of the major soccer hubs in the States, the openings of Levi’s and Avaya Stadiums over the past two years have helped the Bay Area capitalize on the opportunity to lure the biggest names in international football.

“It’s no coincidence people want to come here,” said Landon Donovan, one of the most decorated players in American soccer history. “They want to come where they know people will support it.”

Both Liverpool and Milan will attract big support on the pitch in their second International Champions Cup matches of the season Saturday.

Liverpool has called the Bay Area homebase since arriving stateside for their U.S. tour over a week ago, setting up training camp at Stanford Stadium. Known affectionately to their fans as the Reds, Liverpool suffered a 1-0 loss Wednesday night to their Premier League rival Chelsea FC at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles.

Also on Wednesday, the Italian powerhouse Milan secured a tightly contested win in their ICC opener in Chicago, besting FC Bayern Munich in a penalty shootout 5-3.

Milan held their team practice at San Francisco State University’s Cox Stadium on Thursday, giving select fans the rare opportunity to see their club train live.

Despite having tickets to the MLS All-Star game last night, San Francisco resident and self-described die-hard AC Milan fan David Noii couldn’t pass up the chance to catch the team practice. He and his three-year-old daughter Alexandra both donned Milan jerseys.

“Since I was six years old, I’ve been following them,” Noii said. “It’s been hard to be an AC Milan fan over the past several years, so I’m waiting for something big to happen.”

Milan and Liverpool have both struggled in the Champions League to varying degrees since playing each other in the final in 2005 and 2007.

Saturday’s game will be Noii’s third time seeing Milan play live.

“Oh man, the opportunity to see my team in my hometown … pretty incredible,” Noii said.

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