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North Carolina to host Atletico Madrid, Lyon, Manchester City in 2019 ICC

Photo Copyright Hannah di Lorenzo for The Equalizer

Cary, North Carolina, will be the home of the second Women’s International Champions Cup. The North Carolina Courage — reigning National Women’s Soccer League champions and winners of the inaugural Women’s ICC last year — will host the event at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.

French and European champions Lyon return for the second straight year, as do English club Manchester City. Spanish champions Altletico Madrid round out the 2019 field. The semifinals will be played on August 15 (matchups TBD) and the final (and third-place match) on August 18. The ESPN networks will broadcast all the matches.

This year — unlike last — there will be prize money on the line for the Women’s ICC winner, according to Relevent Sports’ Brendan Doyle. Relevent is the group which runs the competition. Miami hosted last year’s event, which was played in front of practically nobody in the 65,000-seat football stadium.

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There was talk that the field would expand this year due to a high demand of clubs who wanted their women’s teams involved in the competition. Doyle said that the goal is to expand the field to eight women’s teams in 2020, with two host sites. The rumor mill over the past month was that both North Carolina and the Portland Thorns would each host four-team pods, with winners advancing to a final, but that didn’t pan out.

For one, Portland’s stadium is still being renovated, which has back-loaded the home schedules of both the Timbers and Thorns. There’s also the fact that the ICC is again landing in the middle of the already-congested NWSL season — and in a World Cup year. The Courage play at Portland four days before the semifinal they will host; North Carolina rescheduled its August 16 home match against the Houston Dash to Sept. 17 to make room in their schedule.

On stage during Friday’s announcement, Doyle admitted that scheduling is a challenge. “If we waited for the perfect moment, we’d never get this going,” he said. That is, perhaps, a window into the frustration for the parties involved. Doyle also politely suggested that the ICC will need assistance from the involved federations in making time on the schedule.

The fact is, there will never be an ideal time to hold this competition. A summer tournament means preseason for European teams (who aren’t the only interested parties; Mexican clubs have shown interest) and mid-season for the NWSL. Two out of every four years — including this and next — the tournament will have to cram in around a World Cup and the Olympics. And a winter tournament is likely a non-starter for the NWSL, which effectively shuts down in the off months; many NWSL players compete in Australia’s W-League during those months.

Expansion of the tournament will be nice to see, in that it is tangible evidence of the interest in women’s soccer. The more commercial opportunities, the better — but there’s still a good amount of logistics to figure out.

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Photo: La Liga

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