Two NWSL teams and a pair of European powerhouses will participate in the top women’s international club tournament when the Women’s International Champions Cup (WICC) returns this August after last year’s event was canceled, event organizer Relevent Sports Group announced today.
Hosted by the NWSL’s Portland Thorns, a first-time qualifier, at the club’s home venue of Providence Park, this year’s WICC will feature defending champion Olympique Lyonnais of France and two other newcomers: FC Barcelona Femení and the NWSL’s Houston Dash.
ESPN will televise the tournament’s four matches live—played as two doubleheaders, the first match between the two European clubs and the second between the two U.S. teams, setting up for a European vs. U.S. final on August 21 and a consolation game—in both English and Spanish across its networks for an expected international audience.
Budweiser, one of the NWSL’s biggest sponsors, is returning as the WICC’s presenting partner for the second tournament in a row. As a new sponsor in 2019, the beer brand awarded the tournament’s first ever cash prize to the winning team. Prize money plans for the 2021 event were not immediately announced.
Rosters for the four participating clubs include USWNT stars Crystal Dunn, Lindsey Horan, Becky Sauerbrunn, Sophia Smith and Adrianna Franch with Portland; Kristie Mewis and Jane Campbell on Houston; and Catarina Macario with Lyon. A number of other NWSL and international stars will also be featured, including Lyon’s Ada Hegerberg.
The Thorns and FC Barca, who both qualified with 2020 championships, have continued to find success this season, taking home the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup and 2021 UEFA Women’s Champions League title, respectively. Olympic Lyonnais won the Champions League last year, while Houston claimed the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup in order to qualify for the WICC tournament.
“The collection of talent that will be participating at this summer’s WICC in Portland is incredible,” WICC head Susie Fiore said in a statement. “To be able to crown the women’s club world champion in Portland, arguably the best women’s soccer city in the country, will make for an iconic experience for both players and fans.”
The host city will also try to capitalize on the buzz around the tournament.
“We are looking forward to welcoming some of the top women’s soccer talent in the world to Providence Park this summer at the Women’s ICC tournament,” Mike Golub, president of business for the Thorns and MLS’s Portland Timbers, said in a statement. “This unique event provides the club an opportunity to not only grow the Thorns brand but also highlight the passion this city and fan base has for women’s soccer.”
The International Champions Cup is a large annual global men’s competition held in the summer. The women’s iteration of the tournament launched in 2018, featuring four European and American clubs. Relevent Sports Group said expansion is planned for future editions, to six clubs in 2022 and eight in 2023, a sign of its investment into the growth of women’s soccer alongside its continued development of WICC-centric content. The men’s ICC has varied between eight and 18 participants during its eight-year existence.
The privately owned Relevent Sports Group also puts on ICC Futures, a youth tournament for the top clubs in the world.
More from Sportico.com