Friday, February 21, 2014

Yankee Stadium to Become Soccer Mecca

Yankee Stadium to Become Soccer Mecca 

By Howard Goldin

Yankee Stadium will be the venue for one of the 13 matches that comprise the 2014 Guinness International Champions Cup. 

Eight of the top European sides, AC Milan, AS Roma and FC Inter from Italy, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United from Britain, Olympiacos from Greece and Real Madrid from Spain, will comprise this year’s field. Real Madrid is the defending champion of the inaugural year of the prestigious tournament that is being played on iconic venues in the United States from July 24-August 4.

The eight clubs will be divided into two groups of four. The winner of each group will meet in the final at Met Life Stadium in Miami on August 4.

Anyone familiar with baseball and soccer will not find it surprising that the two teams scheduled to play at Yankee Stadium on the evening of July 30 are Liverpool and Manchester City. Not only are the two sides rivals in the English Premier League, not only have both been in existence since the late 19th century, but both are associated with MLB teams involved in the greatest rivalry in the sport of baseball. In 2010, Liverpool was purchased by the Fenway Sports Group, owners of the Boston Red Sox. In 2013, the Yankees entered into a financial partnership with Manchester City to become 20 percent owners of the New York City FC, an expansion club that will enter the MLS (Major League Soccer) in 2015. 

The representative of each team, Mike Summerbee (Manchester City) and Robbie Fowler (Liverpool), is retired after a lengthy and successful playing career in England. Each had a number of caps for the English National Team during his career. 

Both men expressed the importance of playing in America. Summerbee commented, “It’s all about the branding of the club. Everybody wants to play in America.” He explained how he saw the growth of the sport in the U.S., “I came here in 1969 and there was almost nobody watching the games. In 16 years, America will win the World Cup.” 

Fowler explained Liverpool’s thinking, “Not everyone can come to the stadium [in Liverpool]. We like to bring the club to the people. There are 21 million supporters of Liverpool in the United States.”

When asked how two English clubs will draw in a city with so many ethnic groups, Charlie Stallitano, representative of Relevent Sports the promoters of the tourney, replied, “Any team that we bring here will bring true football fans. Football is really universal and these teams are so multi-cultural.” 

Each team is comprised of players from many nations. For example, Luis Suárez, the Liverpool player leading the English Premier League in goals is from Uruguay and the leading scorers from Manchester City, Yaya Touré (Ivory Coast) and Sergio Aguero (Argentina) are stars of their own national teams, not England’s.

It was announced that tickets for this upcoming game will go on sale to the public on March 13.

It should also be mentioned that questions were asked of Mark Holtzman, the representative of the New York Yankees regarding the 2015 site for the New York City FC and who will be on its roster. The answer given was, “There’s a lot of work and planning to be done for the new expansion team.” Holtzman said everyone will soon find out specific information, but none would be dispensed during the press conference.

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