If you asked the average person around the world if they knew anything about Philadelphia, a majority of replies would mention either Rocky, the (cream) cheese, a Bruce Springsteen song, or “that bell with a crack in it.”
Few, if any, would venture to say that FC Barcelona has anything to do at all with the so-called City of Brotherly Love.
But that’s not to say the two have nothing in common.
The Linc link
Bridging the 3,900 mile gap is the home stadium of the Philadelphia Eagles: Lincoln Financial Field, aka The Linc.
Even though The Linc is a football stadium (that’s American football, for those outside the United States and Canada) the first event ever held there was actually a soccer match.
On August 3, 2003, Barça fell to Manchester United, 3–1, in a preseason friendly.
The Catalans, led by first-year manager Frank Rijkaard, fielded a starting lineup consisting of a bona fide who’s who of Barça history.
Goalkeeper Víctor Valdés manned the net that day. A young Carles Puyol anchored the defense.
The midfield featured current Barça B head coach Gerard López; current Barça first team manager, Luis Enrique; and a man many believe might one day return to take over that same role, the legendary Xavi Hernández.
Not enough star power for you? Consider this: a newcomer and marvel named Ronaldinho led the attack.
Curiously, Manchester United was the team FC Barcelona beat out to sign the talented Brazilian striker, who would go on to become the face of the Club in the mid-2000s while leading it into an epoch of glory that, to this day, has yet to subside.
Fast forward: 2016
The biggest city in Pennsylvania and the fifth largest in the United States, Philadelphia is one of the ten lucky sites hosting games in this summer’s Copa América Centenario.
Accordingly, FC Barcelona’s unofficial role of world national team-provider-in-chief all but ensures its representation in America’s birthplace.
Philadelphia has been graced with three group stage matches. Two of them have the potential to feature FC Barcelona players.
South American stars
On June 9 at 7.30pm ET, Uruguay square off with Venezuela. It is not yet clear whether Barça striker Luis Suárez, the 2015/16 Golden Shoe winner, will suit up. Suárez, who missed Uruguay’s opener on Sunday — they lost to Mexico, 3–1 — has been recovering from the hamstring injury he suffered in the May 22 Copa del Rey final.
If Suárez does play, however, soccer fans on hand in Philly will be in for a treat.
Then, on June 14, Chile will go at it with Panama. FC Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo is Chile’s captain. Bravo was named the tournament’s top keeper in last year’s edition.
In between, on June 11, the US national team clashes with Paraguay.
Unfortunately, there won’t be any Barça stars to gape at in that one.