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2017 Florida Cup Preview: FC Playoffs Stage

The second part of the tournament will have six South American teams competing in single-elimination matches

Sao Paulo v Corinthians - Brasileirao Series A 2016 Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images

You already know that six teams from four countries will start their 2017 seasons playing at the FC Challenge of Florida Cup Jan. 8-15. But that’s not all. From Jan. 15-21, six other sides representing four South American nations will clash in the Sunshine State for the second part of the tournament, the FC Playoffs.

In this stage of the tournament, teams from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador will compete in a single-elimination cup, where the motto could be no other than “win or go home.”

With the first brackets already set with Vasco da Gama (BRA) vs. Barcelona (ECU) and River Plate (ARG) vs. Millonarios (COL), São Paulo (BRA) and Corinthians (BRA) wait to know their opponents in the semifinals. Take a tour of the FC Playoffs with The Mane Land and know more about the six contenders.

Argentina

River Plate

Sao Paulo v River Plate - Copa Bridgestone Libertadores 2016 Photo by Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images

The centenary River Plate is one of the most popular and successful teams of Argentina. The club, founded in 1901, is a three-time Copa Libertadores champion (1986, 1996 and 2015), won the FIFA Club World Cup in 1986 and topped the Argentinean League 44 times.

3 Things to Know:
  • River Plate is nicknamed Los Millionarios (The Millionaires) because the club paid expensive transfer fees for players in the 1930s.
  • The club is the top-ranked side of Argentina on FIFA’s best clubs of last century’s list, sitting sixth.
  • Veteran attacking midfielder Andrés D’Alessandro, 35, is back with the club after enjoying a successful international career, having played for German Wolfsburg and Spanish Zaragoza, among others.

Brazil

Corinthians

Palmeiras v Corinthians - Brasileirao Series A 2016 Photo by Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images

Corinthians is one of the most accomplished Brazilian teams, especially in the last decades. The São Paulo powerhouse has two FIFA World Cup Club titles (2000 and 20012), one Copa Libertadores (2012) and six National Championships (1990, 1998, 1999, 2005, 2001 and 2015).

3 Things to Know:
  • Corinthians’ 30 million fan base is known as Fiel, thanks to their loyalty to the team.
  • The club is a mainstay at the Florida Cup, having played in each of the three editions of the tournament, finishing third in 2015 and fourth in 2016.
  • Colombian winger Stiven Medoza, who played for New York City FC in MLS in 2016 on loan, is now part back on the Corinthians roster.

São Paulo

Sao Paulo v Corinthians - Brasileirao Series A 2016 Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images

Founded in 1930, São Paulo had extraordinary success on the national and international levels throughout the 1990s and 2000s, when they won the Copa Libertadores (1992, 1993, 2005) and the FIFA Club World Cup in 2005, and four of their six National Championships (1991, 2006, 2007 and 2008).

3 Things to Know:
  • São Paulo was the first and will, possibly, be the last club of Orlando City’s captain Kaká, who frequently states his desire to retire at the Morumbi club.
  • During the Florida Cup, São Paulo fans will be able to see their team being coached for the first time by club legend Rogério Ceni, a former goalkeeper who scored 131 goals for the club, all on free kicks and penalty kicks.
  • Former Toronto FC and Chicago Fire Designated Player Gilberto, a striker, is part of São Paulo’s squad since last July.

Vasco da Gama

Vasco da Gama v Ponte Preta - Copa do Brasil 2014 (Herbalife) Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images for Herbalife

Rio de Janeiro’s Vasco da Gama is a four-time national champion, lifting the trophy in 1974, 1989, 1997 and 2000. The club, which has been back and forth between Brazil’s first and second tiers for the last four years, has also won the Copa Libertadores in 1998 and its predecessor, the South American Championship, in 1948.

3 Things to Know:
  • Vasco da Gama was founded in 1898 by Portuguese immigrants and was named after their fellow countryman explorer, who was the first to link Europe and Asia by an ocean route, connecting the Atlantic and the Indian oceans.
  • Vasco was the first club to accept black and poor people on its roster in 1924, when soccer was a sport for the elites in Brazil.
  • Skilled midfielder Nene, a former Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco player, wears the team’s No. 10 and is considered its best outfielder.

Colombia

Millonarios

Photo by Millonarios FC

Based in the city of Bogotá, Millonarios is one of the most traditional teams of Colombia. They have won the National Championship an impressive 14 times and were also the third Colombian team to succeed at a major international tournament when they triumphed at Copa Merconorte, in 2001.

3 Things to Know:
  • Millonarios is one of only three Colombian teams which was never relegated, alongside rivals Atlético Nacional and Independiente Santa Fé.
  • During the 1950s, Millonarios was nicknamed “The Blue Ballet” because the club acquired a handful of talented Argentinean players, including Real Madrid’s legend, Alfredo Di Stéfano.
  • Former Portland Timbers winger and 2015 MLS Cup winner Dairon Asprilla is loaned to Millonarios until the summer of 2017.

Ecuador

Barcelona

Photo by Barcelona Sporting Club

Barcelona is the most popular team of Ecuador. Based in Guyaquil, the team is the reigning national champion and has won the tournament 15 times. The club was a Copa Libertadores finalist twice, but was defeated both in 1990 and 1998.

3 Things to Know:
  • The club was founded in 1925 by Eutimio Pérez, a Spanish immigrant who named the club after his home city.
  • Barcelona was never relegated from the Ecuadorian League.
  • Defensive midfield Segundo Castillo played every minute of the Ecuadorian World Cup campaign in 2006, where the team reached the second round for the first time in its history.

Now you know more about the teams that will compete in January’s Florida Cup. Bring on the matches.