Thorns FC

Women's International Challenge Cup: Your need-to-knows for the tournament

Two of the most talented teams in world soccer will be visiting Portland this week, preparing for the coming European season with a pair of matches at Providence Park. Starting on Wednesday, August 18, the International Women’s Champions Cup will make its Rose City debut, with Spain’s FC Barcelona and France’s Olympique Lyonnais vying with the NWSL’s Portland Thorns and Houston Dash in the competition’s third edition.

Barcelona is the coming off the club’s first European championship, won after a 4-0 victory over England’s Chelsea FC in this spring’s UEFA Champions League final. Lyon are seven-time European champions who’ve been part of both previous versions of the WICC, winning the competition the last year it was waged, 2019.

Together, the two clubs will represent Europe against the teams who won the NWSL’s two trophies in 2020. The Dash claimed the inaugural Challenge Cup tournament last summer in Utah, while the Thorns won the league’s Community Shield after posting the best record during the season-ending Fall Series.

Together, the teams will play four games across a pair of doubleheaders on August 18 and August 21. Here are your other must-knows about the WICC’s first visit to Portland:

What is the WICC?

2021 marks the return of the WICC. The tournament debuted in 2018 and was waged again in the summer of 2019 before going on hiatus last summer. Both times, Lyon faced the North Carolina Courage in the final, with the teams splitting a pair of 1-0 results.

Each year, the format is the same. On day one of the competition, two matches are played to determine the pairing for the weekend finales. The teams that lose compete in the third-place match. Winners face each other in the final.

In terms of match days, that means two doubleheaders at Providence Park: Wednesday’s semifinal round, with the first game starting at 5:30 p.m. PT; and Saturday’s second matches, with the third-place game beginning at 4:30 p.m. PT. Tickets for each day get fans into both games.

Who is playing?

This year’s tournament features four teams that won competitions in 2020.

  • Olympique Lyonnais won both the French first division (D1 Féminine) and UEFA’s Champions League in 2020 and hold the record for titles in both competitions (14 and seven, respectively);
  • FC Barcelona is the current European champions and two-time reigning champion of Spain’s Primera Iberdrola;
  • The Houston Dash defeated the Thorns in last year’s Challenge Cup semifinal ahead of a victory over the Chicago Red Stars in the final;
  • The Thorns claimed the NWSL Community Shield last fall before winning the NWSL Challenge Cup’s second edition this spring.

Who to watch for

If you’re reading the Portland Thorns’ website, odds are you’re familiar with both the Thorns and with most of their NWSL opponents. The Dash, for example, have already faced Portland twice this season. Stars like midfielder Kristie Mewis and forward Rachel Daly, fans have seen before.

Barcelona and Lyon, though, maybe a little more mysterious, even if both teams feature former Thorns. Switzerland international Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic is currently on Barcelona’s roster, while Ellie Carpenter and Amandine Henry both play for Lyon.

Beyond those returning Thorns, here are three players from each team to keep an eye on.

From FC Barcelona:

  • Forward Jenni Hermoso leads the team’s attack and was Barcelona’s top scorer during the last UEFA Champions League, scoring six goals in seven games. In league play, Hermoso scored 31 times in 26 appearances and has 78 goals across the last three Spanish seasons.
  • Dutch attacker Lieke Martens was the 2017 UEFA Women’s Player of the Year and was named to last year’s Champions League squad of the season. Between league and European play, Martens scored 20 times, assisted on 10 goals, and had her most productive year since helping the Netherlands win the European championship in 2017.
  • Barcelona’s main playmaker in 2020-21 was Norwegian international Caroline Graham Hansen, who assisted on 24 goals in 32 games between league and Europe. The 26-year-old midfielder also scored 11 goals while joining Martens (and six other Barcelona players) on the Champions League team of the season.

From Olympique Lyonnais:

  • Wendie Renard is considered one of the best defenders in the world. Entering her 16th year with OL, the 6-foot-2 center back has been a part of 16 league titles and seven Champions Leagues winners. A terror on set pieces, Renard scored seven open-play goals between league and Europe last season, with her six converted penalties helping her to the team’s second-highest goal total.
  • Likewise, Amel Majri is capable of giving OL goals from a defensive position, though the 28-year-old French international can play anywhere from left back, to left wing back, to left wing as well as in midfield. She ranked third on the team in goals last season (10 between league and Europe) and second in assists (six).
  • Catarina Macario didn’t have a full season to put up Majri-esque numbers, but in her first 11 games with Lyon, she scored six times. Playing both in midfield and as a forward, the U.S. international started strong after leaving Stanford for Europe. Next week’s games at Providence Park will be her first in the U.S. at the club level since she turned pro, and depending on Wednesday’s results, Macario could face a former Stanford teammate, Portland’s Sophia Smith, on Saturday night.

Schedule and tickets

Wednesday — August 18 — Semifinal round:

  • FC Barcelona vs. Olympique Lyonnais, 5:30 p.m. PT kickoff
  • Houston Dash vs. Portland Thorns, 8:00 p.m. PT kickoff
  • TICKETS – tickets grant entry for both of Wednesday night’s games.

Saturday — August 21 — Final rounds:

  • Third-place match, 4:30 p.m. PT kickoff
  • Championship match, 7:00 p.m. PT kickoff
  • TICKETS – as with Wednesday, tickets grant entry for both of Saturday night’s games.