Another preseason Clasico, Barcelona-Real Madrid, coming to U.S. this summer
In what has become a burgeoning, money-making tradition, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid will bring their renowned rivalry to the United States for a second consecutive summer.
They'll play El Clasico, as its known, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on July 29, as part of the second-year Soccer Champions Tour.
It will be a preseason match, of course. The tour — which will also feature Manchester United, Arsenal, Juventus and AC Milan — is not a tournament like some of its predecessors were. It is essentially eight one-off games, smack-dab in the middle of the Women's World Cup, billed by organizers as a "summer series" that will span California, Las Vegas, Texas and Florida.
But the headliner is the game of all games, perhaps the world's most celebrated sporting rivalry, at the grandiose stadium of all grandiose stadiums, Jerry World, the 105,000-seat home of the Dallas Cowboys that aspires to host the 2026 World Cup final.
El Clasico comes to the U.S.
When Barca and Madrid first brought their blood feud to the U.S. in 2017, the concept was ridiculed by some purists; but the exhibition game, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, was a roaring success. The Miami Clasico drew 1.7 million viewers on ESPN platforms and a sellout crowd willing to pay several hundreds of dollars apiece for tickets. Players competed, genuinely. A 3-2 Barcelona win thrilled everybody involved.
It felt, at the time, like a watershed moment for the International Champions Cup, the preseason event that grew to 18 teams and 27 games spread across nine countries late last decade. In early 2020, organizers were in negotiations to inaugurate Southern California’s SoFi Stadium with a second stateside Clasico that summer.
But then came COVID-19. The ICC canceled its 2020 programming, fizzled during the pandemic, and devolved into a legal dispute between its parent company, Relevent Sports, and its mastermind, the legendary soccer promoter Charlie Stillitano. The men's ICC has not been played since.
Relevent still runs a women’s ICC and other ventures. This summer, it is working with England's Premier League and Spain's La Liga on two separate North American tours. But in 2022, the Soccer Champions Tour swooped in for Barca and Madrid, and organized a Clasico at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. (Barca won, 1-0, in front of a boisterous, sellout crowd.)
In its second year, the Soccer Champions Tour has expanded to feature two clubs each from Spain, England and Italy. Sixth Street, a global investment firm that has partnered with both Barca and Real Madrid, is the company behind it. AEG is producing it. Legends is a key partner. And Stillitano, according to a source with knowledge of the tour's evolution, has been involved as a consultant.
Preseason tour schedules
The Soccer Champions Tour announced its full 2023 slate Friday:
Saturday, July 22: Barcelona vs. Juventus — Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California
Sunday, July 23: Real Madrid vs. AC Milan — Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
Wednesday, July 26: Arsenal vs. Barcelona — SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, California
Wednesday, July 26: Real Madrid vs. Manchester United — NRG Stadium, Houston
Thursday, July 27: Juventus vs. AC Milan — Dignity Health Sports Park, Carson, California
Saturday, July 29: Barcelona vs. Real Madrid — AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Tuesday, August 1: AC Milan vs Barcelona — Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas
Wednesday, August 2: Juventus vs. Real Madrid — Camping World Stadium, Orlando
Kickoff times haven’t yet been determined. In their Friday news release, organizers said that “the matches remain subject to approval by the relevant football authorities,” but that is likely a formality.
Separately, Arsenal and Manchester United have organized a preseason friendly at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on July 22. United is also set to play Wrexham on July 25 in San Diego — presumably with a reserve team, because one day later, it is now scheduled to play Real Madrid in Houston. It then plays Borussia Dortmund on July 30 in Vegas.
Arsenal will also play the MLS All-Stars on July 19 in Washington, D.C.
The Premier League's own "summer series" will feature Chelsea, Newcastle, Aston Villa, Fulham, Brighton and Brentford, with games in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Orlando, New Jersey and Maryland.