FOX Soccer Exclusive
Stars headline action-packed tourney
MIAMI GARDENS, FLA.
Most of the star power usually reserved for South Beach migrated to Sun Life Stadium on Tuesday morning. Ruud Gullit and Hristo Stoichkov chatted off to the side while Emilio Butragueño recalled a famous goal. Paul Scholes soaked in the setting as if looking for an opening in midfield. Ian Rush stopped and talked to anyone and everyone about his resurgent club.
Those famous names in world football traveled to Miami for the unveiling of the 2014 Guinness International Champions Cup. One of the slogans for the forthcoming tournament proclaims the “gods of soccer” are coming. Some of them graced the stage here -- and more are poised to arrive when the matches start on July 26.
All of them will hope to match the contribution of Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo in the showpiece final a year ago. There, Ronaldo curled home an exquisite free kick and scored a second after the break to hand Real Madrid a 3-1 victory over Chelsea to conclude the inaugural edition of the tournament. His display on the night -- a mixture of skill and swagger perfectly attuned to the spotlight -- offered the perfect cap to the tournament and supplied a glimpse of what it can deliver.
Seven of the world's largest clubs will attempt to prevent Madrid from retaining its title this summer. AC Milan and Inter Milan will comprise a portion of the chasing pack again after their experience a year ago, while AS Roma, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Olympiakos will participate for the first time.
United looms as the most high-profile addition to the field after announcing its first American trip since 2011. David Moyes' side will travel across the Atlantic in a bid to lay the groundwork for the upcoming season. The itinerary remains somewhat in doubt given the possibility United could participate in Europa League qualifying depending on their final Premier League placement, but a United spokesperson noted there is still plenty of time (and 42 points still available to claim) before any resolutions are reached.
Relevent Sports CEO Charlie Stillitano highlighted the competitive nature of tournament as one of the reasons behind the attractive field. Instead of playing one-off friendlies, the eight teams will divide into two groups. Each of the teams will play three group matches in three different venues. The winner in each group will advance to the final at Sun Life Stadium on Aug. 4.
Exact dates and times beyond the final are not confirmed as of yet, but there are nine additional host cities confirmed at the moment: Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. Two further sites are expected to join the list at a later date.
The expansive approach and revamped format provides players with a novel approach to their typical preseason work. More than a few of them will hop straight back into the fray after their World Cup exertions, particularly with the clubs expected to bring their full squads to the event. Several others will spend their summer preparing for the challenges ahead and trying to place themselves in the proper position to succeed next season.
Each of those factors sets the stage for another summer spectacle. The combination of top clubs and players adds spice to the usual preseason preparations and provides American fans with yet another opportunity to embrace the figures and the teams they watch every weekend on television.
It also gives the stars yet another chance to shine. If the wattage included in the unveiling offers any indication, then the shimmering should continue all the way through to the final in August.