Barcelona Wins the International Champions Cup
The 2017 International Champions Cup
The 2017 International Champions Cup is in the books, and the preseason tournament that brought some of the biggest names in European soccer to the United States for a two-week tournament was another roaring success. The ICC once again offered some of the biggest derbies and rivalries in soccer from Europe on an American stage. Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Barcelona all clashed in this summer's edition in front of very receptive audiences.
The tournament was highlighted by Barcelona winning the preseason competition as both Neymar and Lionel Messi played starring roles. The ICC showed that big European soccer teams can bring out large crowds as fans filled NFL and MLB stadiums around the country. Manchester City and Real Madrid played in front of an unbelievable 93,000-plus fans in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as the English side thrashed the Spaniards 4-1.
The ICC once again showed that Americans want to see the established soccer clubs of Europe live and in person, more than their own country's Major League Soccer. Although the MLS and American teams have carved out their own niche, the real treat for American soccer fans are the summer preseason matches that exhibit world-class talent. In all, the preseason matches are only a way for players to gain fitness before a 10-month domestic season in Europe, and matter far less to the players and coaches than to the audience paying to see the action.
Champions League Qualifying Stage
While some of Europe's elite soccer clubs have been playing in big-money glamour exhibition matches in the US or elsewhere, a select few teams have been navigating the tricky waters of Champions League qualification.
The UEFA Champions League is the top club competition in Europe that features each country's league winner, and a few elite country's second, third and fourth place finishers as well, in a tournament that determines the best of the best. The American equivalent is the NCAA Basketball tournament, but the main difference is, the Champions League takes place during the regular season for the top leagues on the European continent.
The competition won't really begin until September when 32 teams compete in the group stages. That is when most of Europe's biggest soccer clubs will enter the tournament. Until then, many of the continent's minnows are competing just to make it into the lucrative tournament proper.
Two qualifying rounds have now been completed with no major surprises. Clubs are currently set for the third qualifying round, second leg matches, and a few upsets are currently in the cards. Scotland's Celtic, a regular in the Champions League proper, takes a 0-0 scoreline with Rosenborg into their second leg fixture. Red Bull Salzburg finished 1-1 with Rijeka in their first match, and the series is dramatically balanced for the Austrians. Meanwhile, France's Nice is level with the Netherlands' Ajax, 1-1, in a clash of two well-supported teams. By the end of the qualifying round on August 2nd, some big names will already be out of the tournament.
The competition is only going to get more difficult as Liverpool, Sevilla, Napoli, Sporting Lisbon and Hoffenheim lie in wait for the next round. Any team that can navigate these qualifying waters will progress to the tournament proper and the lucrative cash that comes with it.
Of course, the tournament will not conclude until May 26th in Kiev, Ukraine. It's a long hard soccer road to get there, but one elite squad will hoist the illustrious trophy in May.