This year’s International Champions Cup at Hard Rock Stadium doesn’t have quite the sizzle as the “El Clasico Miami” showdown last summer between Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Nevertheless, a sellout of over 70,000 fans is expected for Real Madrid vs. Manchester United on Tuesday, and as many as 50,000 could show up for this Saturday’s match between English Premier League defending champion Manchester City and Bundesliga champion Bayern Munich even though several World Cup players are on vacation and will be missing.
Also, this year, for the first time, the ICC is hosting a four-match mini-tournament between four of the world’s top women’s teams. That event begins Thursday at 6:15 p.m. with North Carolina Courage vs Paris Saint-Germain, followed by Lyon vs. Manchester City. The winners of the two matches will play for the championship at 9 p.m. Sunday on ESPN2.
The clear favorite for the women’s title is Lyon, which has won the French league title 12 seasons in a row and features many of the top players (and top-compensated players) in Europe. Lyon is the defending Women’s Champions League champion and has won the trophy the past three years.
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Among the Lyon players to watch: Amandine Henry, Eugenie Le Sommer, Sarah Bouhaddi (all from France), Shanice van de Sanden (Netherlands), Lucy Bronze and Izzy Christiansen (both from England), Ada Hegerberg (Norway), Kadeisha Buchanan (Canada), and a trio from the German national team – Dzsenifer Marozsan, Lisa Weib, and Carolin Simon.
The other French team in the tournament is Paris Saint-Germain, which finished runner-up behind Lyon in the league. Saint-Germain’s roster includes Andrine Hegerberg of Norway, sister of Lyon’s Ada; Brazilian players Erika and Formiga; and French players Eve Perisset and Marie-Laure Delie.
The Courage, the only non-European team in the tournament, has the advantage of being in mid-season form and accustomed to oppressive humid weather but will be missing six of its best players for the Tournament of Nations. Crystal Dunn, Sam Mewis, Abby Dahlkemper, Merritt Mathias, and McCall Zerboni are all representing Team USA and Debinha is playing for Brazil.
Despite the missing players, the Courage should be able to compete for a spot in the final.
The other team in the foursome is Manchester City, which finished second in the English league behind Chelsea last season. Man City advanced to the Champions League semifinal, losing to Lyon by an aggregate score of 1-0. Almost all the City players on the roster are from England, including 10 or 11 regulars from the national team. Players to watch are goalkeeper Karen Bardsley, captain Steph Houghton, and Pauline Bremer of Germany.
The ICC women’s tournament is an attempt by promoter Relevent Sports to grow the women’s club game internationally. The plan is to expand the field to eight teams and eventually maybe 12.
“We’ve seen the interest in the Women’s World Cup, and we think the women’s game would benefit from a tournament like this, just like the men do,” said Relevent executive chairman Charlie Stillitano.
Meanwhile, on the men’s side, Manchester City fans will be pleased to learn that World Cup players Bernardo Silva of Portugal and Benjamin Mendy of world champion France will be in Miami for the Saturday match against Bayern Munich.
Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola gave all of his World Cup players vacation time, including Kevin de Bruyne, Vincent Kompany, Gabriel Jesus, Sergio Aguero, and John Stones. But Silva was asked to come back early to get a head start on training for the regular season, and Mendy is arriving in Miami to play the last of the club’s three U.S. exhibition matches.
In addition to the games, the ICC is hosting a free fanfest called “House of Soccer” on Friday at Mana Wynwood. Doors open at 2 p.m. Among the highlights is a 5-on-5 game between Bayern Munich legends and former University of Miami football players, including Jonathan Vilma.
For tickets and information, go to Ticketmaster.