They won’t be awarding a trophy immediately after Manchester City and A.C. Milan collide on July 27 at Heinz Field, but the two European soccer juggernauts will be playing for one.
The North Shore confrontation is the fourth scheduled match in the Guinness International Champions Cup, an eight-team tournament that ultimately will be decided on Aug. 4 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami.
It’s also a matchup that should expose Pittsburgh to soccer at an elite international level, according to former U.S. men’s national team captain Claudio Reyna.
Manchester City is the reigning champion of England’s Premier League. A.C. Milan, from Italy’s Serie A League, is “a traditional powerhouse that has won many Italian championships,” Reyna said.
“Off the back of the World Cup, I think it’s exciting for fans to be able to get to see some high-level soccer live at Heinz Field.”
Pittsburgh is one of 11 U.S. cities playing host to a Guinness International Champions Cup match this summer, along with Ann Arbor (Mich.), Berkeley (Calif.), Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.
Toronto is also a host city.
The game in Pittsburgh will be a preseason affair for Manchester City and A.C. Milan in terms of preparing for their respective leagues back home. But that only adds to the intrigue, Reyna maintained.
“In the preseason, players are fighting for starting spots,” he said. “They want to impress the coach and so the game is very competitive. The players want to play, they want to start. They are going to be going at it. Between that and the high level of players who will be playing, it’s going to be really entertaining.”
Reyna, a veteran of U.S. World Cup teams in 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006, also played for Manchester City (2003-07) in his distinguished career. He’s viewing the Manchester City-A.C. Milan match as an opportunity for Pittsburghers to appreciate soccer and for soccer to appreciate Pittsburgh.
“As the sport continues to grow throughout the country it grows in markets,” he said. “Pittsburgh is a sports city, as we know. I think there’s so much room for growth in soccer in many cities, Pittsburgh being one of them.
“For soccer fans and casual sports fans the opportunity to see high-level teams and world-class players live gives a unique appreciation of the sport. I know Manchester City, in particular, has been to many different cities in the U.S. This is a new market for them, and they’re really interested to come to new places and bring the club to fans and, hopefully, get some fans in Pittsburgh who will support them in the Premier League.
“It’s a great city. It’s important that the sport continues to grow in every city. Pittsburgh is a major market that the sport needs (if it’s) to continue to grow.”