Two of the world’s biggest soccer stars — Lionel Messi and James Rodriguez — are expected to be on the field at Hard Rock Stadium on Aug. 7 as FC Barcelona and Napoli play in the inaugural La Liga-Serie A Cup.
Relevent Sports Group, the sports promotion company owned by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, announced the launch of the event between the Spanish and Italian giants on Wednesday. The annual cup will be a two-game series featuring a team from each league. The 2019 edition will be held on Aug. 7 in Miami and on Aug. 10 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.
Both teams have confirmed they will debut their 2019 starters at the U.S. matches. A source familiar with the deal confirmed that Argentine star Messi will travel with Barcelona and play a significant number of minutes in both matches, barring injury.
Colombian star Rodriguez, who has been on loan at Bayern Munich from Real Madrid the past two seasons, is being transferred to Napoli this summer, according to reports in the German and Italian media. La Gazzetta Dello Sport, Italy’s biggest sports newspaper, reported Wednesday that the one-year loan with option to purchase is done and will be announced after Copa America.
Rodriguez would join Napoli in time to make the trip to Miami, and would be expected to play in the game against Barcelona.
“La Liga has recognized the importance of international expansion, especially in the United States, which is why we have dedicated significant resources through our joint venture with Relevent Sports Group,” said La Liga president Javier Tebas. “The creation of the La Liga-Serie A Cup is in line with our mission to create more opportunities for U.S. fans to celebrate La Liga, and we look forward to this new annual tradition to bring our clubs to America each summer.”
FC Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu said his club is particularly excited to return to Hard Rock Stadium, where it has played on other exhibition matches in recent years.
“It’s always a point of satisfaction to go to the United States and to be able to get closer to our fans, even more so if we can face an opponent that has the quality and class of Napoli,” Bartomeu said. “Moreover, we will have the chance to play in two iconic stadiums, such as Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, where we played the very special La Liga El Clásico in the summer of 2017, and Michigan Stadium, the largest in the United States. We will try to put on a show that will allow our American fans to enjoy our style of play.”
Barcelona and Napoli are two of the most successful clubs in Europe. Barcelona has won the league title 26 times, the Copa del Rey a record 30 times, and is a five-time UEFA Champions League champion.
Napoli has won two league titles, five Coppa Italias, two Supercoppa Italiana titles, and one UEFA Cup. This will be Napoli’s first trip to the United States in 30 years.
“We couldn’t be more excited to be facing FC Barcelona in the US this summer,” said Aurelio De Laurentiis, chairman of Napoli. “Our club hasn’t been to the US in over 30 years, and to have the opportunity to reintroduce Napoli to the American market in this historic matchup against a world class club is huge for us.”
Serie A CEO Luigi De Siervo added: “This Cup is the start of something incredibly special for both leagues. We couldn’t be more excited for this opportunity and are proud to have Napoli playing Barcelona in the first edition of this prestigious matchup.”
FC Barcelona will travel to Miami after playing the Gamper Trophy in Barcelona, where the club will unveil the 2019 first team to tens of thousands of fans at Camp Nou Stadium.
“Bringing together two of the most successful leagues in the world for an annual cup is a proud moment for Relevent Sports Group and for me personally,” said RSG Executive Chairman Charlie Stillitano. “The leadership in both leagues continue to show remarkable vision for not only growing their own league’s brands, but for stimulating the sport’s growth internationally.”
Tickets for the match at Hard Rock Stadium will be available for pre-sale on June 25 at 10 a.m. on Ticketmaster. Tickets will go on sale for the public on June 27 at 10 a.m.