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Six International Clubs Prepare for Florida Cup’s FC Challenge

Six team representatives gathered today to lead up to the beginning of the Florida Cup this weekend.

Jade Nunez - Orlando Soccer Journal

Just a few days away from the beginning of the Florida Cup, the six teams that will be participating in the FC Challenge stage of the event gathered at the University of Central Florida to discuss the first of two tournaments that will be held across the state.

We previewed the upcoming FC Challenge stage of the tournament a few weeks ago, which you can find here.

“We’re very excited to not only bring the Bundesliga teams, but teams from South America as well,” said Nico Castillo, Director of Public Relations for the Tampa Bay Rowdies. “We want to showcase our stadium, showcase St. Petersburg. This will be a fantastic tournament and we’re very happy to kick it off on Sunday.”

There will be three FC Challenge games held at Al Lang Stadium in St. Pete, two games at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports on the Walt Disney World campus in Orlando, and the final game held at UCF’s Bright House Networks Stadium.

A few of the teams have changed around since the original tournament announcement, due to the change in the Brazil soccer schedule after the Chapecoense tragedy.

“It impacted all of us, since some of us were close to some of the people there and it happened back home,” Ricardo Villar, CEO of the Florida Cup said regarding the tragedy. “It’s tough since it impacted everyone’s calendar in the sporting world in Brazil and all the teams, which we had to adapt with it here.”

In order to honor the victims of the Chapecoense tragedy, there will be a memorial All-Star match that will be played between the first game of the FC Playoff and the last game of the FC Challenge at UCF on Sunday, Jan. 15. The match will only last about 15 to 20 minutes and will feature a bevy of big names, which will be announced over the next few days. Already confirmed are Brazilian legend Cafu and former NBA superstar Steve Nash, as well as former Orlando City boss Adrian Heath coaching of one of the teams.

The tournament in itself is mostly meant for teams and players alike to get some experience playing other teams and keeping fit during their season break.

“For us it’s an incredible opportunity to learn,” Marcelo Sant’ana, president of Esporte Clube Bahia, said to the media. “We have the big clubs from Germany, from Argentina, and Tampa Bay and we hope that you enjoy the tournament and of course pray for Chapecoense. In Brazil, it was a difficult time but let’s go ahead.”

Atletico Mineiro, the defending champions of the tournament, will take on Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday, Jan. 11 at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, which will be the first game in the local Orlando Area. Bayer Leverkusen will take on Estudiantes in Tampa for the opening match of the tourney this Sunday, Jan. 8.

There will also be a Fan Fest that will feature 16 days of entertainment, music, food and more. Nightly entertainment will be provided by celebrity DJs, musical acts, and a special 60-minute concert at the final night of Florida Cup Fan Fest by Brazilian artist Alok at the I-Drive 360 Coca-Cola Orlando Eye. The full schedule of events can be found here.

Tickets can be purchased online at the Florida Cup site, however The Mane Land readers can get 15% off of tickets at UCF or Al Lang Stadium. Just follow the instructions in this story and use “TML1” as the code to get the discount.