WASHINGTON – Every four years a country is awarded the opportunity to host the month-long FIFA World Cup soccer tournament. In the past 85 years only three nations have had the privilege of hosting it twice: Brazil, Italy and Mexico.
While Catholic University is in no way equipped to host such an event, the university does share a similar connection. For the second consecutive summer, The Catholic University of America has been selected to host a professional European soccer team as their pre-season training venue.
"It has been a tremendous honor to be selected as the preseason training site for Inter Milan. As one of the world's most storied soccer clubs, Inter's interest in coming specifically to CUA only reinforces the level of quality and prestige we aim to produce within our Athletics Department and University as a whole," said CUA Director of Athletics Sean Sullivan.
Last summer CUA welcomed Chelsea Football Club and this summer F.C. Internazionale Milano made Catholic its home base. Both soccer clubs crossed the Atlantic to participate in the International Champions Cup, which is sponsored by Guinness and put on by Relevent Sports. The ICC brings together some of the world's biggest clubs to compete during the preseason. Inter and Chelsea both selected Washington, D.C. as their home throughout the tournament.
"Relevent approached us last year to discuss using the facility as a possibility for Chelsea." Said CUA Head Men's Coach Travis Beauchamp. "That went very well and we were fortunate to have Inter this year. The relationship with Relevent and their team has been fantastic. It's obviously been a wonderful experience for both our men's and women's teams. The clubs allowed access to training sessions that provided a once in a lifetime experience."
When both clubs began the planning of their international travels to D.C., two main pieces were part of the conversation. The need for privacy and a grass field, Catholic met both those needs. The DuFour Athletic Center offered Inter Milan and Chelsea access to a private pristine grass field, a fully-equipped athletic training room, weight room and a private locker room right in the heart of the Brookland community.
"Given how secure and private our soccer venue is, visiting professional clubs have the opportunity to train in relative seclusion; perhaps a much sought after rarity for athletes and teams of this caliber," said Sullivan.
Internazionale or Inter, as they commonly referred to, are based in Milan, Lombardy and are members of the Serie A League, which is one of the premier soccer leagues in Europe. In their 82 seasons in the league, Inter has won 18 league titles, three UEFA Cups, two Intercontinental Cups and one FIFA Club World Cup. This year's roster consists of roughly 30 athletes from 16 countries, including goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, defenders Nemanja Vidic and Yuto Nagatomo. Also joining the team was Inter legend and current VP Javier Zanetti.
"I know I felt giddy around such world class players," added Beauchamp. "Having Zanetti and manger Walter Mazzarri around the Dufour Center is a pretty surreal feeling. Although the CUA players and staff were professional about being at practice, underneath we're all just big fans. You can't help but feel excited when something like this takes place."
Inter concluded their time at Catholic on Friday, Aug. 1 with their last practice session in the States. They finished the ICC with a 2-0 win against Roma in Philadelphia on Saturday and an overall record of 1-0-2.
"We in Athletics are most appreciative of the large number of University departments that came together to support this visit including Facilities & Grounds, Campus Safety, General Counsel, Public Affairs and the senior administration. Everyone worked in unison to make this hosting opportunity a great success," said Sullivan.
CUA Assistant Athletic Director for Operations and Facilities Pat Ratke and CUA Coordinator of Athletic Services/Associate Head Baseball Coach Bobby Picardo were integral in all aspects of the Inter's time at Catholic. Ratke and Picardo worked directly with Inter's staff as well as various university departments to make Inter's use of CUA a success.
The men's and women's soccer teams are set report for their perspective preseason trainings on Friday, Aug. 15, both teams will open the season on Friday, Aug. 29-30 with non-conference tournaments.
"It's great for CUA and our soccer programs to have big European clubs using our facilities as part of their preseason training in the United States," said head women's soccer coach J.P. Sousa. "Inter Milan this summer, and Chelsea last summer, have helped make our university a realistic destination for world-class soccer teams visiting Washington, D.C. Our players have enjoyed watching the pros train each day, and now everyone here is excited to start our own preseason in a couple weeks."