The eight-team Guinness International Champions Cup kicks off Thursday when Olympiacos takes on AC Milan in Toronto. It’s the first of 12 group-stage matches between elite European teams before the championship game August 4 at Sun Life Stadium.
Real Madrid, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Inter, and AS Roma will also compete in the second annual preseason showcase taking place across the United States and in Toronto.
After 330,000 tickets were sold last year, event organizer Charlie Stillitano said organizers are expecting 700,000 fans over 13 games this time.
“That’s pretty extraordinary,” Stillitano said. “I never thought in this short of a period of time that it would reach this level.”
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Stillitano is the CEO of Relevant Sports, which is owned by RSE Ventures, a sports entertainment company cofounded by Matt Higgins and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.
Stillitano said those two are a big reason why the event’s championship game is held in Miami and why the tournament has become so popular so quickly.
“They had this vision that the only way we can separate ourselves from other sporting events that are going on is to make this something special,” Stillitano said. “They are the architects of this and they’ve really pushed for this to be an international event.”
Real Madrid won the title last year, led by Cristiano Ronaldo and his tournament-high three goals.