The first edition of the International Champions Cup is shaping up to be an exciting tournament, complete with elite action from eight of the world’s best clubs, and it only took one match to figure that out.
In the opening match of the tournament, AC Milan traveled to Spain for a showdown with Valencia to open play. The visitors came away with a thrilling 2-1 victory, and by all indications, that was the same level of play we should be seeing throughout the International Champions Cup.
With the win, Milan will face either Chelsea or Inter in the second round as Valencia squares off with the loser of that contest in the lower bracket. Regardless of the matchups, there will be plenty to look forward to.
Let’s take a look at a few things we learned from the first match of the inaugural tournament and break down some of the finer points of the first edition of the ICC.
Organizers Got It Right
The International Champions Cup replaces the World Football Challenge after a few underwhelming editions of the tournament, and the ICC seems to be exactly what organizers were looking for to make up for the previous tournament's shortcomings.
Instead of featuring a mix of clubs and international teams, the ICC is a showcase of eight of the best clubs in the world, including the likes of Real Madrid and Chelsea. With the best leagues represented in the tournament, there will be no lack of fan support or interest from the general football population.
Granted, the tournament doesn’t boast an entire field of superpowers, but there’s no denying the talent that will be taking the pitch for the next week-plus.
With World Cup qualifiers in full swing, international teams are being stretched thin as it is. It was a wise decision to limit the field to club-level competitors, and the on-pitch product should be top notch as a result.
Not Quite an Exhibition
Many expect the ICC to be an opportunity for clubs to try out their young talent and reserves instead of fielding a top cast of first-team players. If the opening match of the tournament is any indication, that may not be the case.
Neither team fielded their complete starting XI as we’ll see them in the regular season, but the level of play wasn’t diluted in the least. No team will be approaching this tournament as anything more than a preseason tune up, but that sometimes makes for some extremely exciting football.
Milan and Valencia were feisty and energized in the opening contest—something that should bode well for the ensuing matches of the tournament. Both teams set the tone for what every fan is hoping to see in the next 10 days.
There’s something to be said for fielding a starting XI of young players with something to prove. Tune up or not, we’ve seen some good football to this point.
Meaningful Football Is Near
Much of the summer football landscape is marked with transfer rumours, new coaching hires and huge sales of top-flight players. Thankfully, the International Champions Cup is a much-needed respite from the madness.
Meaningful football isn’t far away. While there’s something inherently comforting about the fact that football season never really ends, the months separating league seasons are hard to ignore.
In the meantime, we’ve been fed endless helpings of international tournaments, broken up by World Cup qualifiers—many of which feature teams many fans only watch to get a glimpse of the world’s biggest stars. Many of those stars will be on display in the ICC.
Every club will find a way to make this tournament a step in the right direction as it prepares for the season, but when the dust settles and a champion is crowned, it will still be a meaningless trophy rewarding some quality football in preparation for the season.
Still, it’s nice to see a friendly tournament that features some of the world’s best clubs as a reminder that the season is nearly here.