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Crew to face Aston Villa FC of the English Premier League on July 28 at Crew Stadium

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Columbus Crew announced today that it will play host to Aston Villa FC of the English Premier League - one of England's oldest and most renowned clubs, which is owned by Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner - in an international exhibition match on Saturday, July 28, at 7:30 p.m., at Crew Stadium.

The game will be classified as 'Special Game B' for Crew Soccer Nation Gold members. Additional ticket information and pricing will be released in the near future.

Based in Birmingham, England, and coached by highly respected manager Martin O'Neill, Aston Villa is currently 11th in the 20-team Premier League, with an 11-10-16 record (49 pts.) and just one game remaining in the 2006-07 season, this Sunday at Bolton Wanderers. The exhibition vs. the Crew will come during an important phase in Aston Villa's preparations for the next Premier League campaign, which kicks-off in mid-August. O'Neill will be available to the media via teleconference on a date and time to be determined prior to the match.

"The English Premier League is arguably the top league in the world and we are pleased to bring another EPL club to the Columbus market," said Crew General Manager Mark McCullers. "Aston Villa is a storied club and the strong in-state connection with Randy Lerner's ownership of both Aston Villa and the Browns makes it all the more compelling and an intriguing match-up that should appeal to a wide spectrum of sports fans."

Prior to the match in Columbus, Aston Villa will play Toronto FC at BMO Park on Wednesday, July 25.

"This is an exciting trip for us and will definitely form an important part of our preparations for the 2007-08 season," Aston Villa CEO Richard FitzGerald told avfc.co.uk. "It's a very serious time for us and we'll be taking the full first-team squad over for the two games as we really start to focus on the new season."

Aston Villa Football Club was founded by members of the Villa Cross Wesleyan Chapel in Aston, now part of Birmingham, in 1874. The club was one of the 12 founding members of the Football League in 1888, and it enjoyed a great deal of early success, winning the F.A. Cup in 1887 and 1895, and taking the League title in 1894 and 1896. In 1897 it also achieved the accolade of becoming the first side to win the coveted 'Double,' by securing both the FA Cup and League Championships.

Villa went 37 years without a trophy between 1920 and 1957, before winning the FA Cup at Wembley in '57. League Cup successes in 1961, 1975 and 1977 proved to be the prelude to the greatest years in its history, as the Football League title was regained in 1981 and followed by an unprecedented lifting of the European Cup 12 months later. With the cup win, Villa became one of only four English teams to have won the European Champions Cup, while also becoming the first club to ever beat German-power Bayern Munich in a final. Villa is celebrating the 25th anniversary of that triumph this month.

Aston Villa became a founding member of the English Premier League in 1992 and is one of an elite group of only seven clubs that have played in every Premiership season. It has spent 97 seasons in the top flight, the second most of any English team (Everton FC - 104), and has produced more England internationals than any other club to date, with 63. Premier League runners-up under Ron Atkinson in 1993, Villa has also been managed by former England boss Graham Taylor and David O'Leary. O'Neill was appointed manager in July 2006 and Lerner acquired a controlling interest in the club the following month.

The Crew is 7-1-2 all-time in international exhibitions, including 2-0-2 against teams from the English Premier League. The Black & Gold downed Leeds, 2-1, in 1997; tied Newcastle, 2-2, in 2000; defeated Fulham, 2-1, in 2005; and tied Everton, 1-1, last July.

Founded by American sports pioneer Lamar Hunt, the Columbus Crew is Ohio's Major League Soccer club, anchoring a diverse sports and entertainment enterprise. One of the league's Charter Members and the U.S. Open Cup champion in 2002, it recently opened its 12th season overall and ninth in first-of-its-kind Columbus Crew Stadium.