Inter Miami academy team to face Barcelona, LA Galaxy, Shanghai in ICC Futures

The Inter Miami U14 academy team faces its biggest test to date next month when it plays the youth teams of FC Barcelona, Los Angeles Galaxy and Shanghai in the International Champions Cup Futures tournament in Bradenton.

The tournament, which features 24 boys teams and 12 girls teams, is being held Dec. 11-15 at IMG Academy. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Paris Saint-Germain, AS Roma and Benfica are the European teams in the field. Brazilian team Vasco da Gama and Mexican club Chivas de Guadalajara are also in the event.

Eight U.S. teams are entered, including five MLS academy teams -- Inter Miami, New York Red Bulls, LA Galaxy, New England Revolution, Houston Dynamo.

North Carolina FC, Michigan Wolves, Tampa Bay Rowdies are entered, as well as four Regional All-Star teams and one Allstate Sueno Alianza team made up of promising U14 Hispanic players from around the nation. The teams will play three group games and the top teams advance to the playoff round.

The event will feature “the best collection of youth talent on the planet,” said Relevent executive chairman Charlie Stillitano. “A number of these players will soon be playing on the biggest stage, including the World Cup, Champions League and other pro leagues. Others will use this experience as part of their development in whatever careers they choose.”

The inaugural girls tournament features U15 teams PDA Blue (N.J.), Heat FC (Nevada), Concorde Fire Platinum (Ga.), LAFC Slammers (Calif.), Atletico de Madrid, FC Barcelona, Manchester City, Paris Saint Germain, and four U.S. regional all-star teams.

More than a half million fans digitally streamed ICC Futures matches last year. This year, the Dec. 11 and 12 matches will be livestreamed through, Facetime, YouTube and Twitter and the Dec. 14-15 matches will be televised on ESPN.

“This is a great chance for our academy players to measure themselves against some of the best clubs in the world in an elite tournament format,” said Inter Miami sporting director Paul McDonough. “It is time for them to step outside the South Florida market and be challenged by international competition.”

McDonough and his staff have been busy preparing for the MLS trade days Nov. 12-13, during which they could get as many as four players. The acquired midfielder Victor Ullua from Cincinnati on Monday. After that, they have the MLS Expansion Draft on Nov. 19, from which they can select as many as five players.

Miami Herald sportswriter Michelle Kaufman has covered 14 Olympics, six World Cups, Wimbledon, U.S. Open, NCAA Basketball Tournaments, NBA Playoffs, and has been the University of Miami basketball beat writer for 20 years. She was born in Frederick, Md., and grew up in Miami.