SOCCER

Several European teams to participate in soccer tournament at Sun Life Stadium

 

mkaufman@MiamiHerald.com

Sun Life Stadium will be the European club soccer mecca Aug. 6-7 as seven of the world’s most famous teams from Europe — plus the Los Angeles Galaxy — will converge in Miami for the culmination of a summer preseason tournament that will be televised on Fox and in more than 150 countries.

The event will be a 12-day bracketed “International Champions Cup” that opens in Europe on July 27 and then will move to the United States for seven days of competition on both coasts. First-round matches are in the works for Phoenix, San Francisco and Indianapolis. The semifinals would be in New York and Los Angeles on Aug. 3 and 4. All eight teams travel to Miami to compete in the seventh-place, fifth-place, third-place and championship matches.

At least four of the teams, and the title sponsor, were to be revealed at a news conference Tuesday at Sun Life Stadium, but it was canceled and more details on the teams will be released Thursday. Word is the event will include top teams from Spain, Italy, England and Turkey. Real Madrid is rumored to be among the teams, but organizers would not confirm it. They were hoping to include a German team, but that might be difficult because the German Cup takes place during the same week.

The winning team is expected to take home a$1 million prize.

There have been other high-profile international friendlies at Sun Life Stadium during the past few years, including Barcelona vs. Guadalajara and Chelsea vs. AC Milan. The national teams of Spain and Haiti are playing there June 8, as “La Roja” prepares for the Confederations Cup. But this tournament is different, organizers said, because it will include eight teams competing in a true tournament format.

“What’s extraordinary about this event for Miami is that all eight teams will be playing at Sun Life Stadium over a two-day span,” said Charlie Stillitano, the CEO of Relevant Sports, the soccer arm of Dolphins owner Stephen Ross’ RSE Ventures.

“This will be the preeminent preseason tournament in the world. All the teams we are contracting are very, very excited to play here. America’s a great place for them to train because we have top facilities, the players can relax and not be completely mobbed everywhere they go, and now, they can play matches against some of the best teams in the world.”

As the stakes of professional soccer grow, and the season gets longer, top clubs in Europe are looking for more than just meaningless friendlies to fill their late-summer calendar.

“If you want to compete in Champions League, your team has to be in form by middle of August,” Stillitano said. “If you get off to slow start, you’re in trouble.”

The teams are signing three-year contracts with the tournament. It has not been decided if Sun Life Stadium will continue to host the championship and consolation rounds, or if that will rotate. Stillitano said it depends on the South Florida ticket sales and how well teams, officials and fans like Sun Life Stadium.

“Steve Ross and Matt Higgins [president of RSE Ventures] want to commit to this event for a long time, and their desire is to keep the finals in Miami, but we can’t guarantee that,” Stillitano said. “We are very committed to Miami, and we now need to make sure Miami is committed to us.”

Ross is hoping for a $400 million upgrade of the stadium, which would include a canopy roof over the stands, similar to what they have at many European soccer stadiums. For now, organizers will just cross their fingers for no thunderstorms at game times Aug. 6 and 7.

Tickets go on sale in May.

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