The University of Central Florida and Bright House Stadium have been selected as the hosts of the 2017 Florida Cup. Set to begin in January, the third annual event currently features three teams, including SC Corinthians Paulista (Brazil), Bayer 04 Leverkusen (Germany), and Barcelona Sporting Club (Ecuador).
“UCF is thrilled and excited to partner with the Florida Cup and provide a first-class venue for some of the most popular international soccer clubs from around the world,” UCF athletic director Danny White said. “The central Florida area knows how great Bright House Network Stadium is, and we look forward to showcasing the world-class facility that you all see today to the entire world.”
The event is set to take place from Jan. 7 – 21, 2017 across several venues throughout Central Florida. Bright House Networks Stadium will host several matches including the final on Jan. 21.
In preparation to host international soccer matches, BHNS will undergo enhancements immediately after the conclusion of the football season. The turf will be extended along the corners of the playing area to create a regulation-sized soccer pitch.
“From a university perspective, this opportunity will allow UCF to continue to expand its international reach; millions of people will be watching from around the globe, so we have a phenomenal opportunity to showcase this wonderful institution,” White said. “I applaud our president, Dr. Hitt, and our board of trustees for seeing the benefit of opening up our facilities more times throughout the year. Without their approval, this opportunity would not happen. We look forward to a great tournament in January, and are excited to see some high-level soccer on the pitch.”
The Florida Cup is the largest international sporting event held annually in Central Florida. Broadcast live to over 170 countries, the tournament reaches more than 650 million households. Globally-recognized soccer clubs from four different continents will convene in Central Florida for the premier tournament – a final tune-up before the start of their respective campaigns.
“This is an exciting moment for the growth of the Florida Cup in central Florida and we are proud to partner with UCF,” said Florida Cup CEO Ricardo Villar. “The Florida Cup secures The City Beautiful’s reputation as a leading global soccer destination by building upon the passionate fan base for the city’s professional teams. More importantly, the tournament also delivers annual significant economic benefits to the community, and substantial international awareness around the globe.”
In addition, Florida Cup officials announced the following initial participating teams in the tournament:
- SC Corinthians Paulista (BRA) – The Sport Club Corinthians Paulista, or simply Corinthians, is one of Brazil’s most popular clubs. Its fans are known as “Fiel”, which means loyal, and is composed of approximately 30 million people. Founded in 1910, Corinthians is Brazil’s Serie A defending champion and 2012 FIFA World Club Champion, defeating EPL side Chelsea. This will be Corinthians’ third appearance in the Florida Cup.
- Gustavo Herbetta, Marketing Superintendent: “We are proud to be here again, in our third year at the Florida Cup. We are here because this event provides us with the best conditions to prepare our team for the season in terms of location, the city of Orlando, weather and excellent facilities like UCF. The tournament also provides several opportunities for our brands and sponsors, and to connect with our local and global fans as we have 35 million fans all over the world.”
- Bayer 04 Leverkusen (GER) – Bayer 04 Leverkusen is a German club founded in 1904. Since 1979, the club has been a part of the Bundesliga, Germany’s first division. The club has also continuously qualified and competed in the UEFA Champions League, securing their place in the 2016-2017 edition, the highest profile club soccer competition in the world. This will be Bayer’s third appearance in the Florida Cup.
- Michael Schade, Chief Executive: “The U.S. has been and will always be a great stage for Bayer Leverkusen. The last two years we spent a very valuable training camp in Orlando. On one hand it was a welcoming opportunity to meet our fans overseas. Usually our supporters in USA and Mexico follow us on Bayer 04-TV or on our social media platforms. Now they had the chance to visit us in Florida and get up close and personal. On the other hand, we had perfect conditions ensuring we went well-prepared in the second half of the season. The pitches were in good shape, the weather was great and the facilities fit. The games during the Florida Cup were important for our Coach. We had the opportunity to compete on a high level and it worked out for us. In both seasons we scored better in the second part of the season and qualified for the Champions League – a very good omen. Therefore, it would be great if the Florida Cup 2017 would be our third [qualification] in a row.”
- Barcelona Sporting Club (ECU) – Barcelona is the most successful football team in Ecuador, having won the Serie A title a record 14 times, most recently in 2012, and leading the championship this season. They are also the first Ecuadorian club to make it to the Copa Libertadores finals, having done so twice. Barcelona was founded on May 1, 1925, by Eutimio Pérez, a Spanish immigrant who named the club after his home city of Barcelona. This will be Barcelona’s debut in the Florida Cup.
- Roberto Navarrete, Marketing Director: “We’re very excited to be here – and we want to thank UCF for giving us the opportunity to play at a magnificent venue like Bright House [Networks] Stadium. I can assure you that our fans in the U.S. and the rest of the world, especially Ecuador, are going to show up and make this event successful. Our objective is to position our club on the international level. This past weekend we secured a berth for Copa Libertadores. This tournament will prepare us well for that championship. It will be a good test for our players, for our club. and a great opportunity for us to engage our fans here locally.”
Additional teams from around the globe will be announced in the coming weeks.
The tournament will feature two distinct formats in 2017:
- FC Challenge – A Davis Cup-modeled competition similar to the format during the Florida Cup’s debut in 2015, with Clubs representing Countries, each vying for points to secure the tournament title for their home nation. This phase will occur from Jan. 7 – Jan. 14.
- FC Playoff – A single-elimination round of international teams where only one remaining champion will thrive. This phase will occur from Jan. 15 – Jan 21.
Through community partnerships, the Florida Cup brings a festival atmosphere and activities to Orlando designed to engage all sports fans, the details of which will be announced in the coming weeks. Over 10,000 international visitors are expected to travel to the City Beautiful again, representing over 36,000 room nights to the community. The Florida Cup has grown from four teams from two countries in its first year, to over ten teams from four continents – creating a truly global tournament. The event’s roster of sponsors represents global brands and local businesses, all aligned to bring the very best soccer talent to Central Florida.