MIAMI GARDENS (CBSMiami/AP) — It’s the most popular sport in the world; and on Wednesday night soccer fans will descend on Sun Life Stadium for the championship game of the Guinness International Champions Cup.
On one side of the field will be the legendary Real Madrid and on the other will be Chelsea. At stake, besides the trophy will be quite a bit of bragging rights.
Jose Mourinho left as Real Madrid’s coach this year to return as the sideline boss at Chelsea, and it’s not much of a surprise that those are the two clubs who will play for the title of the inaugural event.
Chelsea got to the final by beating Inter Milan and AC Milan; Real Madrid advanced through the eight-team field with victories over the Los Angeles Galaxy and Everton.
“There are things in life that aren’t worth commenting on and this is one of them, for obvious reasons,” Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo said this week when asked about seeing Mourinho’s new club. “I always come away with the good things about managers. I don’t bite the hand that feeds me and I don’t talk about people that speak badly of me. I come away with the positive things. We’re going to be facing Chelsea, not their manager.”
On some level, Chelsea could be feeling the same way. Real Madrid’s new coach is Carlo Ancelotti, who led Chelsea for a couple of years and took over there not long after Mourinho’s first stint with that club ended. Chelsea’s Juan Mata is also getting ready to enjoy a reunion of sorts. His career started as a striker for Real Madrid.
“It will be very special for me,” Mata said.
All eight teams in the tournament are converging in South Florida for the final four matches. Fifth- and seventh-place games were Tuesday night, and the Galaxy will meet AC Milan for third place on Wednesday, just before the Real-Chelsea title match.
Only the Galaxy is truly in-season at the moment, with the other seven clubs all starting to wrap up their preseason phases, during which they’ve been tinkering with lineups.
“I think this is the moment that we really have to do that, try different positions, a new system,” Ronaldo said. “For me, it’s good to try different positions, maybe for the future. I feel comfortable.”
The tournament concept was to bring big-name teams to the U.S., put them in major markets and big stadiums and continue growing interest in the sport. Two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash worked out with Inter Milan as the tournament was getting started, and Dodger Stadium played host to soccer for the first time in its 51-year history last week.
“Real Madrid will be a huge test for us,” Chelsea defender Ashley Cole said in comments posted to the team’s website. “They’re obviously one of the best teams in the world and I’ve had some good games with Cristiano Ronaldo down the years, so I hope this will be another exciting match.”