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2018 Florida Cup Preview, Part 1: The Debutants

Know more about PSV Eindhoven, Glasgow Rangers, Legia Warsaw, and Atletico Nacional as they are set to compete in the tournament for the first time.

Heracles Almelo v PSV Eindhoven - Eredivisie Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

The 2018 Major League Soccer season will not start until March, but there will be good soccer to watch in the Sunshine State way before that as the fourth edition of the Florida Cup is set to kick off on Jan. 10, bringing eight clubs from six different countries to the state.

The tournament will have eight matches over the course of 10 days, with the first two being held at Orlando City Stadium. There will also be four matches at UCF’s Spectrum Stadium, and one each at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg and Central Broward Stadium in Lauderhill. The full schedule is available here.

The 2018 edition of the tournament will be disputed by the Netherlands’ PSV Eindhoven, Scotland’s Glasgow Rangers, Poland’s Legia Warsaw, Colombia’s Atletico Nacional, Ecuador’s Barcelona, and Brazil’s Atletico Mineiro, Corinthians, and Fluminense.

In the first part of our preview, we will focus on the four teams that are coming to Florida for their first time in the tournament — PSV, Rangers, Legia and Atletico Nacional. Next Thursday, we will dissect the other four, which have all already been in Florida before.

PSV Eindhoven (The Netherlands)

PSV Eindhoven v SC Heerenveen - Eredivisie Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

PSV will be the first team from the Netherlands to compete in Florida Cup. The club is part of the country’s “big three,” alongside Ajax and Feyenoord, and has won the Dutch Eredivisie 23 times and the KNVB Cup on nine occasions. They have also prevailed in Europe, triumphing at the UEFA Champions League in 1987-88 and topping the podium at UEFA Cup one decade earlier.

Currently coached by former Dutch National Team staple Phillip Cocu, PSV leads the 2017-18 Eredivisie after 18 games. The club had an early exit at Europa League, though, falling to Croatia’s NK Osijek in the third round.

Three players to watch:

Hirving Lozano Signed from Pachuca last summer, the speedy 22-year-old Mexican winger quickly became a key piece in PSV’s system, scoring 13 goals in 20 matches and leading the Eredivisie’s scoring list.

Nicolas Isimat-Mirin A product of Valenciennes’ academy, the 26-year-old French defender moved to PSV in 2014 and became a stud on the team’s back line, appearing in more than 100 matches for the club.

Marco van Ginkel (pictured) — After being signed by English giants Chelsea from Vitesse in 2013, the talented 25-year-old Dutch midfielder returned to his home country to play for PSV in 2015 and now wears the team’s captain armband.

Glasgow Rangers (Scotland)

Rangers v St Johnstone - Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Despite of a tough start to the decade, which saw the club get relegated to the Scottish fourth division in 2012 following bankruptcy and a change of ownership that led to the foundation of a new team, the Rangers are still the most dominant club in the country, having won an impressive 54 Scottish Premier League titles, 33 Scottish Cups and 27 Scottish League Cups.

The first Scottish side to compete in Florida Cup, Rangers had a frustrating first-round exit to Luxemburg’s Progrès Niederkorn in the Europa League last July and ranks third in the Scottish Premier League, 11 points behind rival Celtic.

Three players to watch:

Bruno Alves The 36-year-old center back joined the club last summer after stints with FC Porto, Fenerbahçe, and Zenit and is very likely to be part of Portugal’s roster for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Niko Kranjcar No stranger to the United States, having played for the New York Cosmos in 2016, the 33-year-old Croatian midfielder has played in the 2006 FIFA World Cup and defended several clubs in Europe, such as England’s Tottenham and QPR and Ukraine’s Dynamo Kyiv.

Alfredo Morelos (pictured) A product of Independiente Medellin’s academy, the 21-year-old Colombian forward took the Scottish Premier League by storm after his arrival from Finland’s HJK last summer, leading the scorer’s table with 10 goals in 19 matches.

Legia Warsaw (Poland)

Dundalk v Legia Warsaw: UEFA Champions League Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

With 12 national championships and 18 Polish Cup trophies, Legia Warsaw is one of the most successful clubs in Poland. The former home of Chicago Fire’s striker Nemanja Nikolic, the team will be the first from its country to play in Florida Cup.

Legia is en route to a third straight national title as it leads the league before the winter break and is set to compete in the semifinals of the Polish Cup in March. The team waved goodbye to the UEFA Champions League in the third round of qualification, when it felt to Kazakhstan’s Astana, and was eliminated from the Europa League in the playoff round by Moldova’s Sheriff.

Three players to watch:

Jaroslaw Niezgoda The 22-year-old Polish striker joined Legia in 2012 coming from Wisla Pulawy and became an offensive threat, scoring seven goals in 15 league matches for the club.

Krzysztof Maczynski After playing 30 matches for the Polish National Team, including four in Euro 2016, and dressing for teams in Poland and China, the 31-year-old defensive midfielder signed for Legia in 2017, bringing his experience to the club.

Michal Pazdan (pictured) — The 30-year-old center back became a national hero in Poland, as he was selected as the Man of the Match in the team’s 0-0 draw with Germany in Euro 2016 that advanced the Polish National Team to the knockout round of the tournament for the first time.

Atletico Nacional (Colombia)

Atletico Nacional v Kashima Antlers - FIFA Club World Cup Semi Final

One of the most traditional teams in Colombia, Atletico Nacional recently dominated South America, winning the 2016 Copa Libertadores and the 2017 Recopa. The club has 16 Colombian championships and also won Copa Libertadores back in 1989.

The Libertadores-winning squad was dismantled, though, with most of the players headed to other South American clubs, Mexico, or Europe. In 2017, Atletico did not make it through the group stage of Copa Libertadores and it ranks third in the Colombian championship with half of the season in the books.

Three players to watch:

Dayro Moreno A clinical finisher inside the box, the 32-year-old journeyman forward was part of Colombia’s roster in the 2014 FIFA World Cup and has played for each of the four biggest clubs in the country in addition to teams from Brazil, Mexico, and Romania.

Alexis Henríquez The 34-year-old center back, who also won Copa Libertadores in 2004 with Once Caldas and joined Atletico in 2012, is the physical presence on the team’s back line and its captain.

Macnelly Torres (pictured) — A veteran with almost 50 caps for the Colombian National Team, the 33-year-old midfielder is one of the most skilled passers in South America and the creative force behind Atletico’s offense.

Check back with us on Thursday for Part 2 of our Florida Cup preview!