Some major 2017 Florida Cup news today out of St. Petersburg, as the Tampa Bay Rowdies will be playing in the tournament for the first time. Additionally, Al Lang Stadium has been confirmed as one of the host facilities for the event.
The Florida Cup will take place Jan. 7 – 21, 2017 across several venues throughout the state including Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg and Bright House Networks Stadium at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. The Florida Cup is the first international soccer tournament to be held at Al Lang Stadium. Since 2011, the Rowdies play their home matches at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Florida. Set in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg, the stadium offers breathtaking views and first class upgrades, making it the perfect venue to host a significant international tournament like the Florida Cup. At least three (3) Florida Cup matches will be played there, with final dates and match-ups announced in the coming weeks.
Florida Cup officials confirmed the participation of the following teams:
- Tampa Bay Rowdies (USA): The Rowdies are one of the most iconic clubs in the North American Soccer League and the oldest professional sports franchise in Tampa Bay. The team played its inaugural season in 1975, winning the NASL Soccer Bowl Championship in that year. In 2012, just two years after restoring the franchise, the Rowdies won their second Soccer Bowl title. A year later, St. Petersburg philanthropist Bill Edwards announced he acquired the controlling interest of the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Since then, Edwards has devoted time and resources into making the Rowdies one of the most recognizable clubs in North America.
- VfL Wolfsburg (GER): Wolfsburg is a German sports club based in Wolfsburg, Lower Saxony. The club grew out of a multi-sports club for Volkswagen workers in the city. The men’s professional football team play in the Bundesliga, the top tier of the German football league system. Wolfsburg have won the Bundesliga once in their history, in the 2008–09 season, the DFB-Pokal in 2015 and the DFL-Supercup in 2015. Last season, the “Wolves” had an impressive run in the UEFA Champions League before being eliminated in the quarterfinal on an aggregate score of 2-3 by eventual champions Real Madrid. 2017 will be Wolfsburg’s debut in the Florida Cup.
- Club Atlético River Plate (ARG): Famous for its tradition and inspiring fans with their stadium songs, the Argentine sports club River Plate has won the most domestic competitions with 44 titles in the Primera División. Internationally, River Plate has won a total of 15 official titles including three (3) Copa Libertadores titles and the Intercontinental Championship (precursor to the FIFA Club World Cup) in 1986. In 2016, River Plate faced Barcelona in the FIFA Club World Cup Finals in Japan, where it earned second place in the world. 2017 will be River Plate’s debut in the Florida Cup.
The above teams join previously announced SC Corinthians (BRA), Bayer Leverkusen (GER) and Barcelona SC (ECU). Additional teams from around the globe will be named in the coming weeks.
“I am excited to host such high-caliber international clubs at Al Lang Stadium,” said Rowdies Chairman, CEO and Governor Bill Edwards. “This will be a great opportunity for soccer fans from all over the world to enjoy St. Petersburg and everything that it has to offer. We’re looking forward to hosting 2017 Florida Cup matches at Al Lang Stadium and showing it off across the globe.”
“We are thrilled to partner with Bill Edwards and the Rowdies to expand the reach of the Florida Cup to the west coast of Florida,” said Florida Cup CEO Ricardo Villar. “The Florida Cup continues to draw growing interest from the best clubs around the world, all looking to compete at the highest level as they prepare for their respective seasons. We are thrilled to welcome the Rowdies, Wolfsburg and River to the event.
“The tournament will drive significant awareness for St. Pete,” continued Villar. “The Florida Cup is broadcast to over 170 countries, making it the largest international sporting event held in Central Florida every year. This is a win-win for the community, the teams, and for soccer fans in the Tampa/St. Petersburg region and around the world.”
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.
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.