Where To Get Your Footy Fix
It’s already been over a week since the World Cup ended in French victory, and you’re probably already desperate for club football to make its way back. Unfortunately for all of us the big European domestic seasons don’t start up until mid-late August. Nightmare! Or is it?
Football fanatics shouldn’t fret and can breathe a sigh of relief - there’s plenty of football already underway to get you through the summer until we hit the professional club season.
International Champions Cup
(20 July - 20 August)
The International Champions Cup (ICC), a super-charged pre-season friendly tournament the likes of the world had never seen until only recently has already begun. This year’s tournament is the most expansive iteration to date, since the inaugural tournament began in 2013. This year the ICC is played over 22 venues across three continents, featuring some of Europe’s top clubs.
We can all admit that friendly games often don’t mean much, but this isn’t just an opportunity for far-flung fans to see their favourite teams before they head home to their respective leagues. The ICC is also a brilliant opportunity for football fans to see the biggest teams display their new signings and get a taste of how they’re bedding in.
- Arsenal (ENG)
- Chelsea (ENG)
- Liverpool (ENG)
- Manchester City (ENG)
- Manchester United (ENG)
- Tottenham Hotspur (ENG)
- Atlético Madrid (SPA)
- Barcelona (SPA)
- Real Madrid (SPA)
- AC Milan (ITA)
- Inter Milan (ITA)
- Juventus (ITA)
- Roma (ITA)
- Bayern Munich (GER)
- Borussia Dortmund (GER)
- Lyon (FRA)
- Paris Saint-Germain (GER)
- Benfica (POR)
It’s true many of the biggest stars of the game who featured in the World Cup are enjoying some much needed downtime after a hectic summer in Russia. Players like Neymar, Ronaldo, Mbappé, Griezmann and Lewandowski are yet to join up with their respective squads but should be back for selection relatively soon.
The upside to not seeing the superstars just yet? It’s a great chance to see the future stars of tomorrow. With the big guns missing for the start of the tournament, managers pick the cream of the crop from their academies to blood youngsters in, to see what they’re made of, and to give them a chance to play with more senior players.
Yes, the ICC while not quite the pinnacle of footballing competition, has plenty for you to get your teeth into.
Branch out and go further afield
With the domestic season in Europe not beginning for another few weeks, this is the perfect opportunity for earnest football fans to explore what else there is to offer from around the world. In other parts of the globe, domestic leagues work to different schedules and are played at different times of the year. Let’s take a look at some of the best picks to supplement your footballing repertoire.
MLS (Major League Soccer)
Despite cynics questioning its reputation, the premier North American league is serious business these days. Fans of European football will be quick to point fingers at how the older statesmen of European football still depart European shores in the twilight of their careers for the MLS, to make mere cameo appearances.
Maybe a statement such as this was true of the 1970s when Franz Beckenbauer, George Best and Pelé moved to the states to kickstart the game across the pond. We can still draw a parallel in that the bigger stars from Europe like David Beckham, Thierry Henry, or most recently Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic made the move late in the game. But the MLS is anything but new and is now an entrenched feature of the sports landscape of the US and Canada.
Without the distractions of the European leagues, give the MLS a shot and you’ll be seriously surprised. It’s much more competitive than many leagues in Europe, and there isn’t really a dominant team has been able to consistently emerge as victor, although LA Galaxy are trying. The MLS is the perfect thing to keep you from going crazy now the World Cup has come to an end.
The league is split up into two regional conferences, the Western Conference and the Eastern Conference, and with around 20 games already played, the fight for an all-important top-6 playoff position is well underway on both sides of the continent
In the Eastern Conference new kids on the block LA FC have been upsetting the establishment, edging just in front of local rivals LA Galaxy, while FC Dallas are storming ahead at the top. In the Western Conference the New York teams are in the mix as per usual, while unlikely leaders Atlanta FC sit astride top spot.
Campeonato Brasileiro Série A
Amazingly the Brazilian national championship only took a three week break for the World Cup, and it already started up again on Thursday 19 July, playing two rounds of games to date. With the biggest and most popular team in the country Flamengo leading the line, everyone in Brazil is already transfixed despite it not yet being even half way through the season.
Played out in the southern hemisphere, the Campeonato Brasileiro is played at the opposite time of year compared to the majority of Europe’s leagues, meaning they’re in full swing during our off-season.
Why not give yourself the opportunity to see the next Neymar, Ronaldinho or Ronaldo by watching Brazil’s premier football league. The Brazil national team is famous the world round for their silky skills and offensive football play, but it has to start somewhere. Despite European clubs poaching talent ever earlier nowadays there’s still a wealth on offer. Only this month, the hotly-tipped Vinicius Junior transferred from his native Flamengo to Real Madrid for a reported £40 million at the tender age of 18.
The Brazilian league combines fast and skilful football with scrappy defensive displays, and often full force tackling, not of the like you’ve come to expect from the country’s national side. There’s no shrinking violets in this game, that’s for sure. But the depth of talent in this footballing behemoth is often unbelievable. More importantly it’s spread more evenly than in many European leagues and makes for a much tougher, tighter and tense competition.
With such a passionate fan base and an unpredictable league, Brazilian football still has a lot to offer despite losing their premier talents ever earlier on. The league is dominated by southern teams from Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro who have intense and entrenched rivalries, and their teams are widely supported throughout the country. It will come as no surprise that names such as Flamengo, Fluminense, Botafogo, Corinthians and Palmeiras will be familiar to you.
Despite regular inter and intra city derbies occuring fairly regularly, if you find yourself dipping into Brazilian football you won’t be disappointed with the passion, the intensity or the quality of South America’s best domestic league. Tempers run high south of the equator and don’t be shocked if you see an on-pitch brawl either.
For the big boys the world’s premier club competition, the Champions League begins with the group stages in September and ends in an illustrious final of epic proportions in June. Some of the world’s heavyweights with the best players from around the globe fight it out for the ultimate title in club football.
In contrast, smaller clubs from some of European football’s more modest leagues must first prove themselves worthy of a place in the main competition by playing up to three qualification rounds. It begins a lot earlier and often a lot less glamorously for some of Europe’s smaller sides and already we’re well underway with the first legs of the second round of ties being played next week over Tuesday 24 July and Wednesday 25 July.
Some of the teams you might want to take a peak at have illustrious histories and are already fighting it out. They’re after financial benefits that qualification to the main competition can bring, but also the prestige, the chance to test their wits against stronger sides from Europe’s bigger leagues, and of course for the enjoyment of their fans.
Some of the names you might be familiar with that are already vying for a spot in the Champions League or will enter in the third round include: Celtic, Ajax, FC Basel, Malmö FF, Red Star Belgrade, APOEL Nicosia and Rosenborg. It might not be the pinnacle of European football, but it’s certainly the most competitive football in Europe over the summer with many teams fighting for their lives to get that all important spot in the Group Stage of the Champions League. Expect there to be some intense matches being played out.
Regardless of whether you count this as a real trophy or not, the Community Shield ushers in the new season as we all wait will bated breath, Not to mention it’s often the only chance we get to see the Wembley turf baked in sunshine until end of the season as the FA Cup comes to a close.
This year it’s runaway champions Manchester City against FA Cup Winners Chelsea who go up against each other. A lot of questions are still to be answered, and this one will mostly likely bring up more queries than answering any questions. Can Pep Guardiola and co continue to dominate, and how will new Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri adapt to life, and football, in England?
- Premier League (England) 10-11 August
- La Liga (Spain) 19 August
- Serie A (Italy) 18-19 August
- Bundesliga (Germany) 24-25 August