International Champions Cup: Barcelona vs. LA Galaxy Preview
On Tuesday, July 21, Barcelona will visit Pasadena to play the LA Galaxy at the iconic Rose Bowl as part of the Guinness North American International Champions Cup. The tournament starts July 11 and runs through August 5 and takes place in 16 cities across the U.S., Italy, and England.
These kinds of tournaments are enormously popular in the U.S.; several European clubs touring last summer in the wake of the World Cup sold out to crowds of more than 100,000. If anyone thought the draw was due to the World Cup, they can have another think: next week’s Barcelona vs. LA Galaxy match sold out after only two weeks, and other matches in the Cup followed similar suit.
Of course, it hardly bears reminding that Barcelona arrives in the U.S. fresh off its triumphant treble win. But even so, the match is primed to be one of the best of the summer.
Barca Returns to Pasadena
The Galaxy match is the first of four matches Barca play in the tournament. Four days later, they will travel to the San Francisco Bay Area (and so do I) to play Manchester United at another sold-out match at the brand-new Levi’s Stadium, home to the San Francisco 49ers. After that, Barca face Chelsea at FedEx Field in Washington DC, followed by a match back on European soil against Fiorentina at the Artemio Franchi in Florence on August 2.
The July 21 match isn’t the first time Barca will have met the Galaxy. They met them in Pasadena on August 1, 2009, fresh off another treble win – this one was the first in the club’s history—and under the guidance of Pep Guardiola. David Beckham was still with the Galaxy then, and goals from Bojan Krkić and Jeffren Suárez secured a 2–1 win for Barcelona.
Seeing Barcelona against Beckham (Galaxy fans, please forgive me for making it sound as though Beckham was the whole team) was certainly a draw in 2009. This time around, quite apart from the stardust that will cover Messi and even Neymar, if they appear in the match (Suarez shines too—like a vampire in sunlight), there’s Galaxy’s newly debuted Steven Gerrard to see alongside the aging but legendary Robbie Keane.
There is some question as to whether Messi, who is currently on holiday, will appear in the match. Generally, he’s given what he wants including long holidays, but then again, he is a huge draw for the 92,000 fans who will be paying top price to see him. No matter which players appear, for Barcelona fans who can afford the ticket price, seeing their club on U.S. soil is still cheaper than flying to Spain. For anyone else, seeing a top European club is always a good experience.
Galaxy may be less a David Beckham this time around, but current star Steven Gerrard made his post-Liverpool debut in the first ICC match on Saturday, July 12, between the Galaxy and Club America. Galaxy won 2-1.
Gerrard, who was recently named along with Frank Lampard as MLS commissioner Don Garber’s MLS All Star picks – an utterly mystifying choice given that neither had played a minute of MLS in ever—played his first Galaxy minutes following a six-week break.
Gerrard's former Liverpool teammate Robbie Keane leveled Galaxy before he and Gerrard were replaced at the half.
Galaxy boss Bruce Arena said of Gerrard, "He is probably about a month away from being fit enough to play a full match, it will take some games. It doesn't come from training, he will have to play some matches and we will try to slowly build him into that, but what I could see tonight it was a good 45 minutes from him."
There’s few places better to do that than at the Rose Bowl.
An Iconic Venue with a High Price
Pasadena’s Rose Bowl venue has a rich sporting history, of course. It’s the site of the annual college football New Year's Day Rose Bowl Tournament, and has hosted the NFL's Super Bowl five times. But football—or soccer, as it’s referred to in the U.S., has its place there, too. The Rose Bowl was home to the Galaxy from 1996-2002, hosted the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic men’s soccer final, the 1994 FIFA World Cup final, and the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup final. It also served as the site for both 2002 and 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup finals and the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup group stage doubleheader.
The Rose Bowl’s 92,000 seats were sold out within two weeks. The sellout came a few days before Barcelona took on Juventus and won the Champions League, which was probably no coincidence.
The speed with which the match sold out is a sign of what fans already know – that soccer in the U.S. is enjoyed by a huge amount of people.
But the International Champions Cup may price many fans out.
According to a May 2015 Forbes article, the price of tickets for the ICC matches—especially the first two Barcelona matches—is sky-high. The average price for all matches in the tournament, according to online vendor TiqIQ in the Forbes article, is $221.23 a seat, but not all games are drawing that kind of price or demand. The most expensive match is currently the Manchester United vs. Barcelona match at the brand-new Levi’s Stadium in the San Francisco Bay Area on July 25, with tickets averaging $364.74 – the cheapest seats are going for $150 a seat. That’s a lot of money for a fan, not taking into account the exorbitant parking fees, food, and merchandise.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the second most expensive match is the July 21 Barcelona vs. Galaxy match in Pasadena. The lowest price tickets are $110 according to TiQIQ, but other secondary market online outlets list them for as low as $70 a seat. The third most expensive match in the tournament looks to be the July 21 match between San Jose Earthquakes and Manchester United at the Earthquakes’ new Avaya Stadium, closely followed by the July 26 New York Red Bulls s FC Porto match at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey.
Sadly, the least expensive game in the tournament is Paris Saint-Germain vs. FC Porto on July 18 in Toronto, Canada, with tickets averaging $79.66. With the cheapest secondary market ticket going for $28, according to Forbes, seeing PSG and Porto is a good deal.
Still, it’s no chump change for many. Many Barcelona fans will be priced out, which makes some of the matches available only to those who can afford to spend hundreds—even thousands—on a single match.
To me, it goes against the foundation of soccer as an enjoyment for people of every economic level, but those are the unfortunate realities of supporting today’s top clubs. As it is, to watch Barcelona and other La Liga teams in the U.S., you need to subscribe to a special sports package in most cases with cable providers. BeIN SPORTS carries the La Liga, Ligue 1, and Serie A matches exclusively—and you must pay for the channel.
The ticket prices for the ICC tournament can clearly be attributed to the popularity of these big clubs—and their stars. Who doesn’t want to see Messi in the flesh?
But as Nick Green of LA’s Daily News asks, how much do the MLS teams in the tournament benefit? Is everyone going just to see the big names (assuming they appear)?
Probably, yes. Green points out that the majority of fans attending previous U.S Barcelona matches were “overwhelmingly pro-Barcelona.” That, he rightly says, means that few in attendance will be unlikely to move their support to MLS teams anytime soon.
Anything Can Happen
It’s a good bet we’ll see the Spanish giants thwomp the Galaxy on Tuesday, but in these tournaments anything can happen, particularly because the big talent doesn’t usually play the whole match to avoid injury. Galaxy should be ready to take advantage of any lazy summer mistakes from post-holiday mindsets. Many players have spent time with their national teams competing in the Copa America tournament (which ended July 4); the two weeks since wasn’t much time off.
While Galaxy surely doesn’t go into the match the favored side, they should look to represent MLS strongly.
As for me, I’m just glad I don’t have to suffer the sight of Arda Turan in blaugrana stripes just yet—the wounds he caused with his enthusiastic move from Atletico Madrid are still tender and I’ll need several more months before I can see him in a Barca kit. January should do nicely.
Otherwise, I’m delighted to see world class football in Pasadena. Join me on Twitter for live tweeting @sierragfootball from the Rose Bowl's press box, and a follow up report here at Football.com.