NEW YORK, June 20, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Relevent, a multi-national media, sports and entertainment group and organizer of the International Champions Cup (ICC), and Rakuten, Inc., a global leader in innovation headquartered in Tokyo, today announced the inaugural International Champions Cup Futures Tournament presented by Rakuten, bringing together the best U-14 soccer players in the world, July 16-22, 2018 at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort.
The ICC Futures will feature 24 teams from the United States and Europe comprised of the top youth U-14 players in the world, including eight teams from Major League Soccer's (MLS) Development Academy, eight USA all-star teams and eight European academy teams associated with leading professional soccer clubs.
"The future of the sport depends on finding, training and encouraging the world's up-and-coming youth players," said Charlie Stillitano, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Relevent. "The ICC Futures was created to give U.S.-based players the chance to participate in a world-class tournament at the U-14 age group, on home soil and without any cost. This will give us a real insight into where the U.S.-based players are compared to same-aged counterparts playing for top professional academy teams in Europe."
The eight teams from MLS Development Academies include the DC United, Houston Dynamo, LA Galaxy, New York City F.C., New York Red Bulls, Philadelphia Union, Real Salt Lake and the Seattle Sounders. The eight USA all-star teams were selected from eight states: Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The eight European club teams include Arsenal F.C., Atlético Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Celtic F.C., Chelsea F.C., F.C. Bayern Munich, Liverpool F.C. and Tottenham Hotspur F.C.
"The ICC Futures is an exciting addition to Relevent's family of properties," said Daniel Sillman, CEO of Relevent. "Our mission is to deliver the excitement of international soccer to the U.S., and there is no better way to do that than by showcasing the superstar talent of youth from around the world; and on the heels of the announcement that the 2026 World Cup is coming to North America, the timing is impeccable. It's rewarding to think that some of the players participating in the ICC Futures may end up playing in the World Cup eight years from now."
The quarterfinals will be televised on ESPNU July 20, the semifinals on ESPNEWS July 21 and the final match will be shown on ESPN2 on July 22.
All games will be played at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex – the premier site for amateur sports in the nation. The sports complex hosts more than 100 entertainment and sporting events each year for girls and boys.
The ICC Futures will be held in conjunction with the Disney Cup International Tournament (July 16-22), which annually attracts more than 100 teams from around the globe. The ICC tournament highlights ESPN Wide World of Sports' expanding portfolio of domestic and international youth soccer events, which include the Disney Memorial Day Soccer Tournament (May 25-28), the Disney Cup International (July 16-22), the Challenge 3v3 National Championship (Aug. 3-5), the Disney Soccer Showcase Series (Nov. 22-25 and Dec. 27-31) and the Disney Presidents' Day Soccer Festival (Feb. 15-18, 2019).
Rahul Kadavakolu, director, global branding and marketing, Rakuten Inc., commented: "Sports has a lasting impact on youth, helping to build confidence and character that empowers our future leaders – in sports or business. ICC Futures is a strong platform for unearthing and building talent for the future, not only on the pitch, but in life. We're proud to be a part of this moment. It's in our DNA. Rakuten means optimism and we're confident that the lessons learned through sports will help to create better leaders and a better tomorrow."
In addition to Rakuten being the Presenting Partner of the inaugural 2018 ICC Futures tournament, Rakuten Group company Ebates, a leading membership-based online cash-back site in the U.S., will become the Official Shopping Rewards Partner, the global mobile voice messaging service Rakuten Viber will become the Official Messaging App and Community, Rakuten Kobo will become the Official eReader and eBook Partner, and Rakuten OverDrive will become the Official E-Library Partner of the ICC Futures.
Plans for the 2019 ICC Futures include expanding the tournament to 32 teams, which will include another eight teams from professional academies around the world and creating eight regional qualifying tournaments around the U.S., providing more teams the opportunity to participate in the ICC Futures. In addition, the 2019 tournament will feature the inaugural ICC Futures for girls U-16. In future years, ICC Futures will also look to expand and include more international teams including teams from Japan.
For additional information and schedule details, please visit InternationalChampionsCup.com.
About the International Champions Cup
The International Champions Cup is the world's premier annual summer soccer tournament featuring the top European clubs playing across North America, Europe and Asia. The tournament brings world-class soccer to the masses by organizing marquee matches that attract record-breaking crowds – including the largest recorded attendance for a soccer match in the United States. Founded in 2013, the tournament's sixth installment will feature 18 of the top clubs in the world playing 27 matches in 22 cities across the globe, along with the first Women's International Champions Cup, featuring top women's players from around the world, and the first International Champions Cup Futures event featuring top youth players from around the world.
Rakuten, Inc. (TSE: 4755) is a global leader in internet services that empower individuals, communities, businesses and society. Founded in Tokyo in 1997 as an online marketplace, Rakuten has expanded to offer services in e-commerce, fintech, digital content and communications to more than 1.2 billion members around the world. The Rakuten Group has over 15,000 employees, and operations in 29 countries and regions. For more information visit https://global.rakuten.com/corp/
About ESPN Wide World of Sports
ESPN Wide World of Sports, located at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, is the premier site for amateur sports in the nation. The complex hosts more than 100 entertainment and sporting events each year and has accommodated 70 different sports featuring athletes from 70 different countries. Designed to provide professional, amateur and youth athletes with experiences synonymous with the names Disney and ESPN, the 220-acre facility features multiple competition venues, including 16 baseball/softball fields, 9,500-seat Champion Stadium, 18 multi-purpose outdoor fields for soccer, football and lacrosse, three field houses for basketball, volleyball and other indoor sports, a track & field facility, a cross-country course and a tennis complex with 10 courts. Also, there is a 3,200-square-foot production center that produces content globally for the Disney family of networks by utilizing three control rooms, three replay rooms, eight edit suites and a broadcast studio. In January 2018, the complex opened The Arena at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, an 8,000-seat facility specifically designed for cheerleading and dance competitions and other indoor sports. ESPN Wide World of Sports also provides coaches and teams with a variety of unique sports solutions, such as special travel packages, team meal options, photography services, customized event merchandise and post-game celebrations in the Disney Parks. For more information, visit www.disneysportsnews.com for news releases, photos and videos. Follow us on Twitter at @ESPNWWOS and at Facebook at ESPNWWOS.
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