Guinness Cup unveils star-studded lineup

[DATEBOOK] “The Eight Wonders of the World.” Pretty bold stuff for a soccer event of no consequence, yet while sports promoters are notorious for shameless overhype, the Guinness International Champions Cup has lined up a stellar field for its 2014 edition.

To be staged in U.S. stadiums from July 26 to Aug. 4, the tournament has lined up a Who’s Who of powerhouses: English clubs Manchester United and Manchester City along with Premier League foe Liverpool; Milan rivals AC and Inter; and legendary Spanish club Real Madrid, as well as Roma and Olympiakos.

The eight wonders will be divided into two groups for round-robin play, followed by knockout games deciding which two teams meet in the final to be staged at Sun Life Stadium in Miami. Host cities include Phoenix, Denver, Washington, D.C., Charlotte, N.C., Dallas, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Chicago, New York/New Jersey, along with Miami and two more to be named.

Yet to be determined is the availability of players participating in the World Cup, which concludes July 13 in Rio de Janeiro. There could also be conflicts regarding European club qualifiers staged in July and August for European club competitions.

In last year’s debut edition, teams were drawn into brackets for knockout matches. Real Madrid beat Chelsea, 3-1, in the final watched by a crowd of 67,273 in Sun Life Stadium. Real is one of three 2013 participants that will return: AC Mllan and Inter are also back. The other 2013 participants were Valencia, Juventus, Everton and the Galaxy. Seven U.S. match dates, several of which were doubleheaders, held in six stadiums yielded average crowds of 41,335.

“Year one of the Guinness International Champions Cup set the new gold standard for soccer in the United States,” Charlie Stillitano, CEO of event promoter Relevent Sports, said at the tournament launch in Miami. Our only goal was to provide fans with the best football experience in their own backyards. We look forward to building on these successes in 2014.”

Tickets go on sale Thursday.

The announcement of participants and venues for 2014 comes two months earlier than confirmation of the 2013 event. Last year’s event was televised by Fox Soccer and ESPN Deportes; broadcast arrangements for the 2014 competition are under discussion

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