The backdrop could not have been more perfect for the official announcement on Friday of El Clasico Miami, the highly anticipated rare summer matchup between Spanish soccer giants Barcelona and Real Madrid scheduled for July 29 at Hard Rock Stadium.
Palm trees swayed against the bright blue sky, women in bikinis paraded past the Fontainebleau Hotel poolside stage and celebrities ranging from Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to Dolphins Hall of Famer Dan Marino to rapper FloRida hobnobbed with soccer legends Roberto Carlos and Hristo Stoichkov.
Arguably the greatest rivalry in the world’s most popular sport is coming to South Florida with a pair of rosters that reads like a Who’s Who of soccer — Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, just to name a few. Tickets, which go on sale next week, will start around $125, according to sources, and lower-bowl center seats will likely go for upwards of $500.
Despite the high prices, organizers predict a quick sellout. Fans from all over the United States, Latin America and Europe are expected to travel to Miami for the big event, the marquee match of the International Champions Cup. The match will be televised on ESPN.
El Clasico Miami will be the culmination of a Super Bowl-like week of festivities that will include a Wednesday match between two yet-to-be-named teams, a Legends Game, skills competitions, VIP parties, concerts, including FloRida and Mexican pop duo Jesse and Joy, and an open training session on Friday.
“For me, this is like a dream coming true,” said Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, whose company Relevant Sports negotiated the deal. “Believe it or not, in 1958 I was a cabana boy here at the Fontainebleau Hotel when I was going to high school down here, so standing here today to announce something that is really one of the great events in all of sport is very special.’’
The teams have played outside their country only once, in 1982 in Venezeula. Real won that match 1-0 on a goal by eventual Spanish national team manager Vicente del Bosque.
Executives of Barcelona and Real Madrid have been approached countless times over the years about playing an exhibition around the world. They always declined.
So, how did Ross and his company convince Spain’s soccer royalty to take their most prized jewel to Miami?
Ross flew in his private plane to Spain on Dec. 1 along with Matt Higgins (RSE Ventures CEO), Tom Garfinkel (Dolphins CEO) and Charlie Stillitano (Relevent chairman). They had a Dec. 2 breakfast meeting in Madrid with Real Madrid president Florentino Perez and then flew to Barcelona the next day for lunch with Barça president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
Negotiations continued for several weeks and a deal was struck.
“I am in love with Miami, and it was very easy to be convinced because this is the perfect place for this kind of match,” FC Barcelona vice president Manel Arroyo said. “There is a huge soccer fan base here, it is easy to get here for fans in Latin America and Europe, and our players like to visit here.”
Real Madrid VP Emilio Butragueno agreed: “Miami is very passionate about [soccer], and this match will spread the sport all over the Americas.”
Exclusive pre-sale tickets will be available starting next Friday at 10 a.m. and general public sales begin March 20 at 10 a.m. at www.interna tionalchampionscup.com.
VIP travel and ticket packages are available now via the Fontainebleau at www.fontainebleau.com/elclasico.