Surprise Premier League leaders Leicester City will join European giants Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in this year’s International Champions Cup.
The fourth edition of the annual pre-season tournament will be staged across North America, China, Australia and Europe before the start of the 2016-17 campaign.
Leicester are set to rub shoulders with the elite of European football in next season’s Champions League as they sit five points clear at the summit of England’s top flight with seven matches remaining.
Claudio Ranieri’s men will get an early taste of what might be in store when they face European champions Barcelona in Stockholm on August 3 as part of the North American and European leg of the ICC.
Leicester kick off their campaign against Celtic in Glasgow on July 23 before taking on Paris Saint-Germain in Los Angeles seven days later.
Premier League counterparts Liverpool and Chelsea and Serie A rivals AC Milan and Inter complete the 10-team line up for the North American and European leg, while Juventus, Atletico Madrid and Tottenham will take on hosts Melbourne Victory at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Organisers Relevant Sports will announce the line-up for its Chinese leg on Wednesday, with Manchester City and Manchester United widely expected to be confirmed as the showpiece names.
— Int Champions Cup (@IntChampionsCup) March 22, 2016
Leicester’s inclusion comes after Relevant Sports chairman Charlie Stillitano said earlier this month that he would favour guaranteeing Champions League places for major clubs such as Manchester United at the expense of surprise-packages with a lower profile.
“It’s a wonderful, wonderful story,” he said on SiriusXM, referring to Leicester’s unexpected title challenge. “But you could see it from Manchester United’s point of view too. Maybe that is absolutely spectacular unless you are a Manchester United fan, Liverpool fan … or a Chelsea fan.
“This is going to sound arrogant, and it’s the furthest thing from it, but suddenly when you see the teams we have this summer in the International Champions Cup you are going to shake your head and say, ‘Isn’t that the Champions League?’ No, the Champions League is PSV and Gent.”
The Champions League and the International Champions Cup might soon both be Barcelona versus Leicester, and City club ambassador Alan Birchenall had no hard feelings when he spoke after Stillitano at Tuesday’s media launch in New York.
“When I walked in for the first time, when I looked at the club badges on that board, it hit me for the first time,” he said. “We’re on this board and that means everything to our football club. It’s a wonderful story.
“During my time at Leicester I’ve been through everything you can imagine for a football club – promotions, relegations and administration. To be here today representing, it truly is a great honour to be here for our football club.”
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