Soccer / Sports

Man U, Real Madrid among teams playing for International Champions Cup in Florida

MIAMI -- Some of the best European soccer clubs will once again spend part of their preseason in Miami.

The all-star lineup for the 2014 Guinness International Champions Cup was announced Tuesday at Sun Life Stadium, the site of the championship match on Aug. 4. The field is composed of Manchester United, Manchester City, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Liverpool FC, AS Roma and Greek-champion Olympiacos.

"(The teams) are extremely excited to participate mainly due to the tremendous support for the game and their teams here in the States and the level of competitive nature of the ICC," said Charlie Stillitano, the CEO of Relevent Sports, a subsidiary of RSE Ventures which owns the Miami Dolphins and is coordinating the event.

The second-year tournament will begin play on July 26, about two weeks after the World Cup Final is played in Brazil, and visit 13 U.S. cities. The eight teams will be divided into two groups, which will be announced on Feb. 20 along with the rest of the schedule, and play round-robin, guaranteeing each club three games. The two group winners will meet on Aug. 4 in Miami for the title.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, co-founder of RSE Venture, was instrumental in creating the tournament last year. Matt Higgins, vice chairman of the Dolphin and the other co-founder of RSE Ventures, said at Tuesday's news conference there were four main objectives when developing the tournament: making it competitive, attracting the best teams in the world, expose soccer to new U.S. markets and the most important one to Higgins and Ross, cementing Miami's place as the "capital of international soccer in the United States."

"None of this would be possible today without the vision of Steve Ross," Higgins said. "This vision was if we can bring as many events (to Miami) as possible we can drive economic growth, we can drive job growth ... and we can drive passion for sport."

Last year's ICC final between Real Madrid and Chelsea drew a crowd of 67,273 to Sun Life Stadium and organizers believe the event can be larger than last season. The expansion of cities is a start with matches taking place in non-traditional soccer cities like Pittsburgh and Charlotte, N.C., in addition to the more standard cities like Chicago, Denver and Washington, D.C.

The tournament does not include a team from Major League Soccer this summer despite the Los Angeles Galaxy playing in last year's event. Stillitano said there were discussions with U.S-based teams and although many teams wanted to participate, the scheduling was too difficult given the fact it takes up a week during the MLS regular season. However, he did affirm the MLS will likely have representatives in future tournament fields.

"We looked at it very closely this year," Stillitano said. "We reached out to several MLS teams ... we just couldn't make it work with the schedule this year. Certainly, MLS will be a part of it in the future."

The list of teams can change if one of these clubs needs to qualify for European competitions, which would take place around the same time. Manchester United is currently five points back of that spot in England with 14 games to go. If there needs to be a replacement, Stillitano said they are prepared to substitute teams.

The tournament announcement comes on the eve of another monumental soccer day for Miami. On Wednesday morning, David Beckham is expected to be officially awarded an MLS franchise by league commissioner Don Garber at a news conference at the Perez Art Museum downtown. At the news conference, they will discuss their intention to bring the team to Miami, pending a viable stadium deal.

(c)2014 The Miami Herald

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Distributed by MCT Information Services


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