The International Champions Cup, the five-year-old soccer showcase that has become the most high-profile summer tournament in the world, is adding something new this year: a women’s competition.
Manchester City, Paris St.-Germain, the N.W.S.L.’s North Carolina Courage and a fourth club will make up the first Women’s I.C.C. field. The tournament will be contested in two doubleheaders in South Florida this summer: back-to-back semifinal matches on July 27, and then a third-place game and the final on July 29 at Hard Rock Stadium, the Miami Dolphins’ home stadium, in Miami Gardens.
The fourth team has not been confirmed, but Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Barcelona are among those on the shortlist to take part.
The small size of the tournament is a concerted effort by Relevent Sports, which owns the I.C.C., to focus on making the first year a success even as it plans to double its size as soon as next year. Many of the clubs that regularly compete in the I.C.C. now have professional women’s teams, and Relevent’s executive chairman, Charlie Stillitano, said they had been agitating for ways to get those squads exposure outside their home markets.
When Relevant told its club partners that the women’s event was finally happening, nearly a dozen teams asked to take part.
“The response we got was extraordinary,” Stillitano said. “Every team was like, ‘Oh, can we send our women this year?’ And we just couldn’t, as an inaugural event, have 16 teams to launch it. This is just something we’re going to have to grow. We’re just trying to grow it properly.”
So while they said they could have filled a four-team field with European squads quickly, Sheiman said it would have been “irresponsible” not to have a National Women’s Soccer League team involved.
Before the inaugural weekend tournament in July, the women’s teams from Europe will gather in Portland, Ore., for several days of training. The teams will work out privately but also alongside a small group of elite teenage American prospects. On July 25, the three teams will take part in a public session with a round robin of 45-minute matches. The next day, the teams will join the Courage in Florida ahead of the I.C.C. doubleheaders.
“We think we can give it the stage it deserves,” Sheiman said of an intercontinental club competition for women. ”And then, coming back in 2019, spend some time and think about: What’s the best format we have? What’s the best way to integrate the women’s league here and tie that in and be sure that they’re treated the right way?”
The entire men’s I.C.C. field, as well as the matchups and cities, will be announced on Tuesday. A half-dozen top clubs, including Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham and Bayern, have confirmed they will compete. Real Madrid and Barcelona are expected to return, though not face each other this time, as is Juventus, which will also serve as the opponent in Major League Soccer’s All-Star Game on Aug. 1.
But Stillitano joked that so many clubs jumped at the chance to bring their women’s teams to the United States that “we probably could have had 12 of these teams because everyone’s asking us.”
Instead, the first Women’s I.C.C. will serve as a test run for something bigger. Ticket prices will be “modest,” Stillitano said, to encourage attendance. He and Relevent’s chief executive, Daniel Sillman, both said an expansion to at least eight teams by next year and to 16 in 2020 was possible.