Stephen Ross might have been unsuccessful in bringing the Super Bowl back to Miami, but he is bringing the next best thing, the Guinness International Champions Cup.
The ICC, which will match up some of soccer’s most storied franchises, will in have its championship game here in Miami on August 7.
Some of the biggest clubs in the world will take part in the tournament including, Chelsea, A.C. Milan, Valencia, Everton, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Juventus, and the back-to-back MLS Cup Champions Los Angeles Galaxy.
Together the eight teams have won 120 league titles, and 20 European Champions league trophies. Real Madrid leads with 32 La Liga titles in Spain. The tournament also will feature 35 of the top 100 players in the world.
Relevent Sports, whose parent company is RSE Ventures (owned by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross), brings the excitement and intensity of international soccer to the United States by showcasing the best clubs in the world through premier tournaments and events. Relevent Sports goes beyond the game and provides an innovative approach to building international soccer presence by utilizing brand development, grassroots planning, corporate sponsors, international touring and philanthropic initiatives for the soccer organizations.
Charlie Stillitano, former general manager of the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, and venue director for Giants Stadium during the 1994 World Cup, is currently the CEO of Relevent Sports and one of the people who are very close to this project.
“Stephen Ross had the idea of creating a tournament and having all the teams come down to Miami to play the final,” said Stillitano. “He [Ross] sees Miami’s changing face and the cultural shift, he realizes that in many cases their first love is soccer.”
Although South Florida has not had a Major League Soccer franchise since 2001 when the Miami Fusion called it quits, the area is no stranger to big marquee soccer matches; most recently, 36,535 fans filled Sun Life Stadium as they witnessed Spain and Haiti clash on June 8th.
Prior to the ICC, the World Football Challenge tried to do the same type of tournament and it was a huge success. Over 60,000 fans packed stadiums to watch powerhouses Chelsea, America, Inter Millan, and A.C. Millan clash. However, with a win or go home feel to it, teams coming to the United States trying to get ready for preseason didn’t appreciate the idea of coming to play a game and going back.
“The biggest challenge we found when creating the ICC was the schedule,” says Stillitano. “What we found is that as teams [from Europe] don’t want to come and just play friendly matches. They want to compete.”
The ICC is a very condensed tournament; on one side of the bracket, the first-round matches are Juventus vs. Everton at AT&T Park on July 31 and Real Madrid vs. the Galaxy at University of Phoenix Stadium on Aug. 1. The other side has AC Milan vs. Valencia on July 27 at Estadio Mestalla in Spain and Chelsea vs. Inter Milan on Aug. 1 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Semifinal matches are at Aug. 3 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Aug. 4.
Seventh and fifth-place matches will be played on Aug, 6, while the third-place and championship matches will be played on Aug. 7.
“With the knockout stage, we tried to keep a format that is really easy for fans to understand,” said Stillitano.
The one team that might be new to some soccer fans is the Los Angeles Galaxy, and despite being the back-to-back defending MLS Cup champions, some question the move to include the MLS franchise.
“Los Angeles is a very recognizable team,” says Stillitano. “We specifically chose the Galaxy to represent MLS; we want them to showcase their talents.”
With the Galaxy in mid-season form, and the European powerhouses about to begin their pre-season, don’t count the Los Angeles Galaxy our just yet; they might surprise many of you.
“When these calibers of clubs get together in these types of stadiums, there really isn’t a friendly match,” says Stillitano. “All eight of these teams will compete to become the champions.”