For a seventh-straight year, international clubs will travel to Orlando for the Florida Cup and this year’s edition will take place from July 25-28. This year’s competition will take place in the summer, as the global pandemic didn’t allow the Florida Cup to happen during the traditional January window. That change will make the Florida Cup look different in 2021.
For starters, it will be the first time in which no Brazilian teams will be part of the tournament. With their season going at full pace, clubs from the country could not fit the Florida Cup in their schedules this time.
On the other hand, Orlando soccer fans will be able to watch teams from two of the strongest leagues in the world — the English Premier League and Italy’s Serie A. Arsenal, Everton, and Inter Milan will all join Colombia’s Millonarios in this year’s tournament. Plenty of talented players, such as Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Everton’s James Rodriguez, and Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku will headline the event.
Orlando City’s Exploria Stadium will not be used in the Florida Cup for the first time since 2018 as it’s currently busy with MLS and NWSL matches and will just be coming off additional Gold Cup matches. The tournament will be moved to a familiar venue for Lions fans though, as all four matches will be played at the club’s former home, Camping World Stadium.
This year’s competition format is pretty simple, with the semifinals taking place this upcoming Sunday. Arsenal will take on Inter at 6 p.m. and then Everton will face Millonarios at 8:30 p.m. Next Wednesday, July 28, will feature a third-place match before the final.
Here’s what to expect from each club:
One of the most traditional clubs in England, the Gunners will enter the tournament trying to rebound from a poor 2020-2021 campaign which saw them finish eighth in the Premier League and crash out of the UEFA Europa League.
Mikel Arteta’s side didn’t lose many key players, with Brazilian defender David Luiz and young Norwegian midfielder Martin Odegaard as the most relevant departures. But Arsenal didn’t make any meaningful additions either.
Forward Alexandre Lacazette, the team’s top goal scorer last season, will join team captain Aubameyang at spearheading the attack. Midfielder Bukayo Saka, who may not make the trip to Florida after missing the penalty that gave Italy the Euro 2020 title, is also an important player for Arsenal.
Player to Watch: Brazilian center back Gabriel Magalhaes is one of the most promising young defenders in international soccer right now. The 23-year-old player was signed last summer from France’s Lille and had a strong first season in London, appearing in 32 matches over the year.
Everton should also enter the tournament with a chip on its shoulder after it settled for 10th in the Premier League and had quarterfinal exits at both the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup.
The team lost its coach in the off-season as Carlo Ancelotti left to take over for Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid. Ancelotti was replaced by Spanish manager Rafa Benitez. There hasn’t been much player movement yet for the Toffees either, with the departure of bench veteran Theo Walcott as perhaps the biggest loss.
Everton has a well-balanced roster, with England’s Jordan Pickford in goal and the defense anchored by Colombian center back Yerry Mina. The midfield will rely on the talent of Rodriguez and Everton will be without forward Richarlison, who is with Brazil for the Olympics.
Player to Watch: Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s form last season was great news for Everton as the towering English striker scored 21 goals across all competitions. He’ll have competition this upcoming season from 21-year-old Italian Moise Kean, who’s back after a successful loan stint at Paris Saint-Germain, during which he tallied 17 goals.
The Italian club had mixed results during its last season. While it managed to stop Juventus’ dominance in Serie A and claim the league title, the team didn’t make it past the group stage at the UEFA Champions League.
After Antonio Conte’s departure, Simone Inzaghi was chosen as manager and made one of the biggest sales this transfer window by moving right back Achraf Hakimi to PSG. Inter also sold winger Matteo Politano to Napoli. They were replaced by cheaper veterans Matteo Darmian and Hakan Calhanoglu.
Still, the reigning Serie A champions have one of the strongest rosters in all of Europe. Alessandro Bastoni leads the defense, Nicolo Barella and Matias Vecino are skilled players in the midfield, and Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez head the attack. However, it’s hard to imagine all of these players will be in Orlando after recently representing their national teams.
Player to Watch: Stefano Sensi was one of just a few Inter players who weren’t involved with their national teams this summer and should arrive in Orlando fresh to play. The center midfielder is not the kind of player who will fill out the stat sheet, but he’s an important presence on the field and connects passes at a very high rate.
The Colombian club is the only team returning to play in the Florida Cup after falling in the quarterfinals in 2017. Millonarios was one of the best teams in its country last season, finishing in third place in the domestic league.
As with most South American clubs, Millonarios was hit hard by the financial effects of the pandemic and had to let some of its key players go during the season, most notably midfielder Jhon Duque and forward Ayron del Valle. Most recently, midfielder and 2014 FIFA World Cup participant Fredy Guarin also left the club.
Despite all the departures, Millonarios still has a solid team that includes goalkeeper Christian Vargas between the posts, veteran right back Elvis Perlaza, talented midfielder Harrison Mojica, and goal-scoring threat Fernando Uribe up front.
Player to Watch: Defensive midfielder Stiven Vega is the heart of Millonarios. A former U-20 Colombian international, the 23-year-old covers a lot of ground for the team and plays a clean game on and off the ball, completing most of his passes and not making a lot of fouls.
With so many big teams and star players in Orlando, this year’s Florida Cup is sure to be exciting. Make sure to head on over to Camping World Stadium for the tournament and to support more international soccer here in Orlando.
2021 Florida Cup Schedule
Semifinals: Sunday, July 25
6 p.m. — Arsenal vs. Inter Milan
8:30 p.m. — Everton vs. Millonarios
Third-Place Match: Wednesday, July 28
6 p.m. — Semifinal 1 loser vs. Semifinal 2 loser
Championship: Wednesday, July 28
8:30 p.m. — Semifinal 1 winner vs. Semifinal 2 winner