There is good news for South Florida soccer fans suffering from World Cup withdrawal: Four of the world’s top club teams — Real Madrid, Manchester United, Manchester City and Bayern Munich — are playing preseason matches at Hard Rock Stadium in late-July as part of the International Champions Cup.
Numerous World Cup players are expected to participate.
The early World Cup exits of Spain and Germany were blessings in disguise for the ICC because Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are loaded with players from those national teams, so they will be well-rested and eager to get back on the field. Manchester United and Manchester City also feature Spanish players, as well as a few from Argentina, which bowed out in the Round of 16.
Among the players who will likely be on the rosters for the Hard Rock friendlies: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Marco Asensio (Real Madrid), Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), Gareth Bale (Real Madrid), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich), Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), James Rodriguez (Bayern Munich), Keylor Navas (Real Madrid), Alexis Sanchez (Manchester United), David de Gea (Manchester United), Marcos Rojo (Manchester United), Bernardo Silva (Portugal) and Benjamin Mendy of champion France, who asked to play with Manchester City for the Miami game.
“We are supposed to get all the players from teams that didn’t get past the Round of 16, and some players from quarterfinal teams may choose to come to get prepared for the club season,” said Charlie Stillitano, executive chairman of Relevent Sports, which runs the ICC. “Players from the World Cup semifinals and final will not be there because they get mandatory vacation, so we don’t expect players from France, Croatia, Belgium or England.”
That means South Florida fans will not get to see Croatian/Real Madrid stars Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic, champion French team players Paul Pogba (Manchester United) and Raphael Varane (Real Madrid), or Belgians Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City), Marouane Fellani (Manchester United) or Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United).
The Manchester United and Manchester City rosters include eight players from England’s national team, and they are unlikely to attend.
It is still unknown whether players from quarterfinalist Brazil will show up. The Brazilian squad includes Real Madrid players Marcelo and Casemiro, and four players from Manchester City — Gabriel Jesus, Danilo, Fernandinho, Ederson.
“With all the upsets in this World Cup, we caught some breaks,” Stillitano said. “Even though it’s a short turnaround, we are expecting most of the rosters to be very strong.”
For the second year in a row, South Florida fans will not get to see Cristiano Ronaldo. Last year, the Portuguese Real Madrid superstar chose to skip the event, and this summer, he was signed by Juventus, which is not playing in Miami.
A sellout crowd of more than 70,000 is expected for the July 31 match between Real Madrid and Manchester United, and the July 28 game between Manchester City and Bayern Munich will likely draw more than 50,000 fans.
“Ticket sales have been good for both games, but better for Real Madrid and Manchester United,” Stillitano said. “I think a lot of people were waiting for the World Cup to end and to see which players are coming. We expect sales to pick up in the final few weeks.”
This year, for the first time, there will be an ICC women’s tournament featuring three teams from Europe — Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Olympique Lyonnais, and the North Carolina Courage of the National Women’s Soccer League. The Courage faces PSG in the first match of the July 26 doubleheader, followed by Man City vs Lyonnais. The third-place and championship matches are July 29.
The ICC “Miami Week” will also include open training sessions, and the House of Soccer fanfest in Wynwood. Among the festivities is a 5-on-5 game between Bayern Munich legends and University of Miami football alumni. One half will be a flag football game, the other half soccer.
For more information and tickets, go to www.internationalchampionscup.com or TicketMaster.