For Americans craving to watch some world-class soccer up close and personal, the International Champions Cup is the perfect solution.
The quality of play in the MLS has improved drastically over the past few years, and the league is certainly headed in the right direction, but let's be honest—it still doesn't hold a candle to the top leagues throughout Europe.
This upcoming eight-team tournament will host top squads from the EPL, La Liga and Serie A, giving fans in the States a unique opportunity to witness some of the best players and clubs from around the world.
Let's take a look at what the first round has to offer.
Note: A complete bracket, including the loser's bracket, can be found at InternationalChampionsCup.com
|Milan||Valencia||Saturday, July 27||2:00 p.m.||Estadio Mestalla||Valencia, Spain|
|Juventus||Everton||Wednesday, July 31||11:00 p.m.||AT&T Park||San Francisco, CA|
|Chelsea||Inter||Thursday, August 1||8:00 p.m.||Lucas Oil Stadium||Indianapolis, IN|
|Real Madrid||LA Galaxy||Thursday, August 1||9:30 p.m.||Univ. of Phoenix Stadium||Phoenix, AZ|
First-Round Matches to Watch
Chelsea vs. Inter
Fans in Indianapolis should consider themselves fortunate, because they are being treated to arguably the most compelling first-round matchup.
Chelsea vs. Inter. Jose Mourinho's new (and also old) squad vs. Jose Mourinho's old squad.
After Mourinho unexpectedly left Chelsea in 2007 following astounding success, he moved to Inter, where he eventually led the Nerazzurri to the first treble—Serie A title, Coppa Italia title and Champions League title—in Italian history.
Who will win this one?
Once again, after unprecedented success, he left Inter for Real Madrid—and the former hasn't been the same since, most recently finishing ninth in Serie A.
But that's not the end of it. Upon re-joining Chelsea this summer, Mourinho told Chelsea TV, via Sky Sports, "In my career I've had two great passions—Inter and Chelsea—and Chelsea is more than important for me."
So, yeah, there's a little bit of recent history connecting Mourinho and these two squads, and it will be alluring to see if there's any bad blood.
Oh, and there will be a little bit of talent on the pitch, as well.
Chelsea is littered with captivating playmakers, and from burgeoning young superstars such as Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Juan Mata to intriguing newcomers such as Andre Schuerrle and Marco van Ginkel, there are a slew of reasons to watch this squad during exhibition play.
Inter hasn't made as much noise this summer, but the club still features a lot of really skillful players.
Milan vs. Valencia
The only match outside of the United States, this one will take place in Valencia.
Both squads are coming off relatively poor campaigns.
AC Milan didn't enjoy the same kind of success as the previous two seasons, but it still finished third in Serie A and advanced to the Champions League Round of 16 last year.
Moreover, they have one of the most tantalizing young goalscorers in Europe in Stephan El Shaarawy:
Of course, you can't forget the always-entertaining Mario Balotelli, who absolutely thrived once getting back to his home country in the middle of last season.
On the other side of the pitch you've got Valencia, which finished fifth—its worst placing since 2008-09—in La Liga last season but also boasts a lot of exciting players, including elite goalscorer Roberto Soldado.
With Milan looking to get in form for the upcoming Champions League qualifiers, and Valencia attempting to rebound after a poor showing during a tour in Germany, this figures to be a hard-fought matchup, exceeding the standards of a regular exhibition.