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Volume 21 No. 2
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Champions finale could leave Miami in future

The Guinness International Champions Cup soccer tournament debuting next month and later culminating in Miami will find its future championship weekends bid out to other cities.

Such was the message last week from Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins and Sun Life Stadium, where this year’s event will conclude. Ross is also the co-founder with Matt Higgins of RSE Ventures, the sports, entertainment and technology business that is the parent company of Relevent Sports, which created the Guinness International Champions Cup.

Since the event’s announcement in April, it has been widely assumed the tournament, which Ross plans to make an annual event, would always end in Ross’ stadium in Miami. But that’s not necessarily the case, said Ross in an interview at RSE Ventures’ headquarters in Manhattan last week.

“I don’t know if it will be in Miami all the time,” Ross said. “We will bid it out.”

Ross’ declaration could be the result of frustration after his bid for public funds for a portion of a $350 million renovation of Sun Life Stadium was thwarted by the Florida Legislature in early May. It also could be a message that Ross wants to send to state politicians and residents: If Sun Life Stadium is not upgraded soon, Miami will continue to lose out on hosting prime events.

Guinness International Champions Cup

Dates: July 27-Aug. 7
Participating clubs: European clubs A.C. Milan, Chelsea, Everton, Inter Milan, Juventus, Real Madrid and Valencia; MLS Los Angeles Galaxy.
Match sites: Valencia, Spain; Indianapolis; Glendale, Ariz.; San Francisco; Los Angeles; East Rutherford, N.J.; Miami.
Format: Bracket-style, culminating at Sun Life Stadium with 5th and 7th-place games on Aug. 6, and championship and 3rd-place games on Aug. 7.
TV: Fox Soccer

Neither Ross nor Higgins would comment directly on the local political dealings.

“Other cities will see the support that we’re getting this summer for the tournament,” Ross said. “I have no doubt that there will be plenty of interest.”

Miami representatives last month failed in their effort to bring the Super Bowl to South Florida in 2016 or 2017. The NFL’s site-selection decision for those games came in the wake of Miami’s unsuccessful effort to secure funding to improve Sun Life Stadium, which opened in 1987.

“We’re bullish on soccer in Miami, which has become an international hub for soccer fans in the U.S.,” said Higgins, CEO of RSE Ventures and a former executive vice president of business operations with the New York Jets. “But we’ve begun to hear from other cities interested in the Guinness Cup. First, we want to make sure the property works great. We’ll wait and review how the [event] plays out in Miami. No matter what, our end goal remains to renovate Sun Life Stadium.”

Ross is confident of the interest in the Champions Cup tournament.
The 2013 Guinness International Champions Cup will feature seven European clubs along with MLS’s Los Angeles Galaxy, competing across seven host cities. Fox Soccer will televise 11 of the tournament’s 12 matches live. The tournament will be broadcast in 151 countries.

“The idea to have all eight teams play in Miami on the same [days] was Steve Ross’,” said Relevent Sports CEO Charlie Stillitano.

Stillitano estimated that all Guinness International Champions Cup matches will draw at least 50,000 fans.

“There’s not much going on in sports in late July and early August other than baseball,” Ross said. “We thought having a championship game, instead of just a round-robin of friendlies like you used to see a lot in the summer, was key. People in America want to see you play for something. Out of nowhere, and in just nine months, we’ve created this great tournament that people will want to come to every year. Eight soccer clubs of this caliber all playing in the same city [is] unparalleled.”

After Miami this summer, other cities may get their chance to play host.