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Gold Cup, SuperLiga schedules nearly set
by Ridge Mahoney, March 26th, 2009 7AM
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The schedule for the World Football Challenge that will feature four international club teams in six U.S. cities this summer is one piece of a busy calendar. Returning for 2009 is SuperLiga, the annual exhibition tournament contested by four MLS teams and four Mexican counterparts. The schedule has yet to be released but it will be split into two phases: group play will be held in the last half of June, after the Concacaf World Cup qualifiers played earlier that month, with the knockout games to be staged in early August, following the Gold Cup.

Thirteen cities will host Gold Cup games. The tournament begins July 3 at Home Depot Center and concludes with the final July 26 in the Meadowlands. Concacaf is planning to release the schedule early next week, according to a source, though officials are still finalizing the matchups of groups and cities. Under a provisional plan yet to be approved, both Mexico and the United States will start their schedules on the West Coast and move east as the tournament unfolds.

For SuperLiga, the Mexican entrants won't be known until later in the spring. The four MLS participants - Chicago, Chivas USA, Kansas City and New England - are blocking out dates during the last two weeks of June to host SuperLiga games.

As was the case in the past, two four-team groups will consist of two teams from each league. Only the group games matching teams from the same country will be staged as doubleheaders, the others will staged independently. The likely pairings of MLS teams within the same group are Chivas USA-Kansas City, and Chicago-New England but those and other details are still under discussion.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber contends SuperLiga plays an important role in the grand plans of SUM and MLS, from both competitive and marketing standpoints. New England won last year's final, defeating Houston on penalty kicks, after the MLS teams knocked off Atlante and Pachuca, respectively, in the semifinals.

The MLS teams angered the commissioner when they agreed to pool the shares allotted separately to the winners and runners-up, and both semifinals were marred by Mexican players and coaches sparking fracases in the final minutes. Yet the competition has its advocates, including Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear, who believes such club matchups feed on the rivalry between the U.S. and Mexican national teams though the clubs field players from other countries.

"I just really believe we need to continue to prove to the hardcore soccer fan that our teams can stand toe-to-toe with our Mexican counterparts," said Garber. "They have a league that's been very, very successful playing international games. They are powerful competitively and commercially.

"Our players feel the same way we do, and as a result those games have a real edge to them and create an energy that's great in our stadiums. The ratings have been terrific and they're an important part of our league's future."

 



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