|Charlotte gears up for 'Summer of Soccer' on an international stage|
|Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund play July 22|
|Published Thursday, April 19, 2018 5:28 pm|
Prepare for the summer of soccer.
A total of 29 clubs have played 94 matches in 74 cities since the International Champions Cup tournament’s inception in 2013. Three of those matches and six clubs have played at Bank of America Stadium since 2014. July 22 marks Liverpool’s second appearance in the Queen City, and Borussia Dortmund’s first. Stadium renovations last summer prevented the tournament’s return to Charlotte.
The tournament kicks off in the States between Manchester City and Dortmund on July 20 in Chicago, five days following the World Cup final in Russia. While the World Cup is the most coveted team sports crown on the planet, ICC organizers want the showcase to be seen not as a summer preseason tournament, but silverware that clubs covet.
“We even use the tagline ‘no friendlies, just football,’” said Relevent Sports Senior Vice President of Sales and Venue Partnerships Kwame Bryan, who was in Charlotte Thursday as part of the run-up to ICC. “The World Cup is the biggest stage in the world. You’re going to have more people in the world and the United States who are not just the avid soccer fans, but the embracement of the World Cup. When you get that, it truly is the summer of soccer.”
Said former Dortmund defender/midfielder Patrick Owomoyela: “It’s such a huge sports country. You have so many supporters here to each and every one of those sports, but soccer is still a little child—an embryonic phase. It’s a great chance to be participating in the growth of the market, and to bring the story of our club. Everybody knows about Liverpool, or at least more people do, but we have an interesting story, a different story than many other clubs.”
Liverpool’s inaugural trip to Charlotte also came during a World Cup year, with a majority of the team traveling for the ICC.
“As you’ve seen the tournament grow, with all 18 teams, this year there is going to be a table. No one wants to be in the bottom of that table,” Bryan said. “It took a little while for coaches to want to come in and say, ‘wait a second, this is my getting ready for my season, and you want me to start off playing Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid? What?’ There’s going to be some ups and some downs of starting your first three games off against some strong competition.”
For LFC Charlotte members, it feels like déjà vu, as many of them attended the 2014.
“Completely excited,” LFC Charlotte President Lauryn Bewlay said. “Jaw hit the floor. I have no words.”
Said LFC Charlotte founder Carlos Quevedo: “As soon as I heard, I was just like over the moon about it, because I was so involved when I was here the first time. I just couldn’t believe that they were coming back again.”
Ask any Liverpool fan what “Istanbul 2005” mean to them. Have a seat. It may take a moment.
“The Istanbul [Champions League] final,” said former Liverpool defender Sami Hyypia, who joined Owomoyela on the Charlotte tour. “I think all the football fans will remember that game for a long time—how it went, that we were 3-0 down against an experienced Italian side [A.C. Milan] at halftime, and then we managed to come back to 3-3, and then we won on penalties. That was an extraordinary game. I’m not too happy with the first half, when we conceded three goals, but I think the Champions League is one trophy that all the professional football players want to win.”
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