Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester rivals whet US appetite for elite game | Bryan Armen Graham

American fans flocked to the International Champions Cup but there is concern that while enriching top European clubs it may not be helping the domestic game

On Saturday night a sellout crowd of 66,014 spectators footed between $240 (183) and $3,500 (2,665) to watch a pre-season friendly between Real Madrid and Barcelona at Miamis Hard Rock Stadium, the pice de rsistance of the two-week summer exhibition tour featuring high-profile European clubs known as the International Champions Cup. The rights holder ESPN delivered the type of blanket coverage more typical of a Super Bowl or World Cup final, committing no fewer than 25 on-air personalities to south Florida and broadcasting live on location throughout the week.

This is to say nothing of the 35,728 fans who paid $20 to $30 plus parking to watch both clubs training sessions on Friday night.

The breathless mania surrounding the so-called Sunshine State Clsico the first meeting between the two Spanish arch-rivals to take place outside Europe in 35 years was hardly an outlier. Behold the eye-popping attendance figures in the past fortnight to watch clubs from thousands of miles away work off their offseason cobwebs: 65,109 for Real Madrid v Manchester United at Levis Stadium in Santa Clara; 67,401 for the first Manchester derby off English soil at Houstons NRG Stadium; 82,104 for Barcelona v Juventus at MetLife Stadium outside New York better than the average attendance of all but one National Football League team during the 2016 season.

This is heady stuff in a nation with an alleged hereditary aversion to the worlds most popular sport.

For decades Americans have been drilled for the day, always just around the corner, when soccer would graduate from cult interest buried in the agate type of newspaper sports sections to the mainstream realm of baseball, football, basketball and ice hockey: the traditional major leagues that comprise the national sporting conversation. First it was the North American Soccer League of the 1970s that augured the shift. Then the 1994 World Cup, the first in the US. And any number of plot points in between.

But if the enthusiastic public response to these off-season friendlies is any indication, that day is here.

These exhibitions, brought together in a loosely organized tournament format spanning 11 days and 12 venues, have only grown bigger and more numerous in recent years.

The man behind the enterprise is the soccer promoter Charlie Stillitano, who has made a cottage industry of organizing the pre-season tours of the worlds top clubs over the past decade and a half. The companies have gone through different financial backers and names remember the ChampionsWorld or the World Football Challenge? but the constant has been Stillitano, the former Princeton soccer captain and general manager of Major League Soccers New York/New Jersey MetroStars, who has finally discovered his calling as a dealmaker and power broker.

Today Stillitano serves as chairman of the International Champions Cup, seducing European clubs on the promise of fertile commercial soil and appearance fees reportedly in the $25m range while selling American sports fans on the allure of the megawatt stars and top-flight soccer that MLS cannot offer. The ICC is in its fifth summer and, reportedly, a profitable enterprise after operating in the red for previous editions.

The gradual success of these exhibitions can be chalked up to a couple of factors. First, the annual midsummer jaunt is scheduled during the badlands of the American sporting calendar. The NBA and NHL have wrapped up months ago and the NFL and college football are only just starting training camp, leaving only mid-season baseball on the radar. That and the MLS, which cant be thrilled about sharing the spotlight with its European brethren as it struggles for a foothold in its own domestic market.

Second, and perhaps more crucially, the ICC sells their English and Spanish media rights in a single package, a rarity in a trade that typically hawks them in separately in order to maximize value. The bilingual package gives ESPN a chance to own a major US soccer event in both languages.

For marketing purposes the International Champions Cup bristles at the characterization of these matches as friendlies or exhibitions. Still, the fact Americans are turning out in vast numbers to watch glorified scrimmages is proof theres an appetite for elite soccer from the coastal elites to the heart of Texas. This is nothing like the NFLs ongoing foray with regularseason games in London. Yes, the star players are contractually obliged to play a designated number of minutes in ICC matches. But unlimited substitutions can mean an entire half (or more) watching second- or third-team players fight for their spots. And the results themselves: they dont count in the standings.

But that has not stopped the people from turning out in droves, even during a tour that on four occasions went head-to-head with Gold Cup knockout stage matches, conflicts that directly undercut a crucial source of fundraising for Concacaf, which funds age-group championships and development programs in 41 member countries. But have we reached a point of oversaturation? Might the trend finally have plateaued?

The US is a large market for sport in general and soccer specifically, Concacafs general secretary, Philippe Moggio, said in a statement last week. The interest we see for exhibition matches and other friendly games demonstrates the tremendous and growing overall demand for soccer in this country.

The closing match of this years ICC takes place on Sunday when Roma faced Juventus at Gillette Stadium, home of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. MLS will no doubt be happy to be relieved of the competition, but whether a rising tide truly lifts all boats and doesnt merely fill the coffers of already outrageously rich superclubs remains to be seen.

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Donald Trump makes snarling threats on Twitter if new healthcare bill isnt passed

After a devastating defeaton the Senate bill to repeal Obamacare early Friday morning, President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Saturday afternoon to send a threatening message to lawmakers and insurance companies.

Early Saturday morning, Trump demanded the Senate kill off the filibuster rule (even though the healthcare bill onlyneeded a simple majority) and said the GOP senators looked like fools.Trumps anger apparently continued on later in the day.

Though it seems unlikely at this point that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could get an Obamacare repeal passed at this pointhe tried three times last week and failed each timethe Trump administration still could hurt Obamacare.

As the Los Angeles Timesexplained:

Officials could stop marketing and outreach efforts that encourage people to sign up during open enrollment periods. They could refuse to enforce the requirement that people buy insurance or pay a tax a step that officials already have said they will take. And they could stop trying to keep insurance companies in the markets.

None of those actions would cause the markets to collapse overnight, but they would destabilize them over time by driving out healthy people, which causes costs to rise, which in turn drives out more healthy people. Thats whats known as a death spiral, and it could happen at least in some parts of the country eventually.

The biggest issue involves money that has the bureaucratic-sounding name of cost-sharing reductions. Basically, the government tells insurers that they need to hold down the insurance deductibles and co-payments that they charge low-income people. That costs the insurers money. To make the insurers whole, the government is supposed to reimburse them.

Trump has threatened to stop those payments, which costs about $600 million per month. If he cuts off those reimbursements, insurance companies likely would raise premiums and/or pull out of the individual market. That, observers fear, would send the insurance market into pure chaos.

Trump already has taken to threatening members of his own party. He jokingly wondered if Nevada Sen. Dean Heller wanted to be reelected in 2018, and Heller, who originally showed misgivings about the healthcare bill, eventually voted with the GOP. He also tweeted out a threatto Alaskas Lisa Murkowski, but she still voted to kill the bill.

Whether the Republicans are scared of Trumps threats or whether theyre scared he might decimate the insurance markets, their response to his latest threats remains to be seen. But a number of key Republicans in Congress have already said the reimbursements need to continue as normal.

I think theyre going to have to be paid, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told Politico earlier this month. You cant let people be without basic health care.

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HSBC’s man in Monaco arrested

Banker to the famous faces charges over alleged siphoning of $10m from celebrities including Michael Schumacher.

A senior British banker who worked for the private banking arm of HSBC in Monaco has been arrested in connection with the disappearance of $10m (6.8m) from the accounts of rich and famous customers, including champion racing driver Michael Schumacher.

Stephen Troth was arrested by Monaco police last week and is being held in a local jail. He faces charges relating to the alleged siphoning off of the money from some of the bank’s highest profile customers.

As well as Michael Schumacher, who is one of the highest paid sportsmen in the world, cash is also understood to have disappeared from the account of Nigel Robertson, a 38-year-old businessman who co-founded

Now based in Monaco, Mr Robertson has an estimated fortune of 75m and runs a sports marketing agency representing names including golfers Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke.

HSBC is understood to have paid compensation to all clients who have lost money.

Mr Troth worked for HSBC Republic, the British bank’s worldwide private banking arm, which targets high-earning celebrities offering “tailor-made services to suit their lifestyle”. It is understood that he was the highest-earning member of staff in the Monaco branch.

He is still listed on the bank’s website as the Monaco contact for the group’s “global media practice”, which invites “actors, composers, designers, musicians, sportspeople and writers as well as their agents, producers and directors” to take advantage of a “refined service”.

The affair is a huge embarrassment for HSBC. It has poured millions of pounds into building its Republic operation in an effort to win a significant share of the highly lucrative private banking business.

Secrecy and security are regarded as of paramount importance to its success, and the disappearance of millions of pounds is bound to undermine the bank’s reputation.

Mr Troth, who is in his early 40s, was arrested as he returned from a holiday. It is understood that he left his job at HSBC Republic at the end of July, shortly after the bank discovered that cash had gone missing. He told colleagues he wanted “to pursue other interests”.

A spokesman for HSBC said: “Mr Troth no longer works for us. The matter is in the hands of the police and we cannot comment. There is also the matter of client confidentiality here.”

The bank first became aware that something was amiss when several clients called in to query their account balances. An investigation is understood to have uncovered widespread discrepancies in the accounts of many of the bank’s most valued customers.

At first the losses were blamed on computer errors, but police are now investigating allegations that the money was transferred from those accounts into other numbered accounts linked to Mr Troth.

One account holder said: “It sounds ridiculous but when you’ve got so much money its very easy not to notice that a few thousand pounds are missing.”

Mr Troth was based in the same building where billionaire banker Edmund Safra died in a fire in December 1999. His death came weeks after he agreed the $10bn sale of his Republic banking groups to HSBC.

The ornate, turn of the century mansion overlooks Monte Carlo harbour and is a short stroll from the principality’s exclusive Casino and Hotel de Paris.

The six-storey building is frequented by many of Monaco’s most wealthy residents who value the bank’s discretion and advice. It boasts about 5,000 clients and is run by Gerard Cohen.

Stephen Troth had one of the best jobs in banking – living in Monte Carlo and rubbing shoulders with some of the principality’s most successful and flamboyant businessmen.

He is well known to many members of the so-called “Monaco Mob” of rich and mostly young entrepreneurs who trade the London market from their Riviera bases. Most are tax exiles who flit in and out of Britain completing deals.

Mr Troth was highly regarded by HSBC Republic for his ability to attract wealthy account holders and was spearheading a drive to pull in more wealthy celebrity clients. HSBC’s marketing material for the new venture says: “It concerns personalities in the film entertainment, music, publishing and sports industries and has been poorly served by the financial services institutions worldwide. Until now!”

He is understood to have spent his career in banking and had worked for Republic for more than five years before his abrupt departure in July.

He is described as unassuming and mild mannered, and his arrest was a shock to those acquainted with him. One businessman who knows him socially said: “He’s quiet, wears glasses and looks like a boring old banker in a grey suit and a tie. He was very discreet.”

In his private life he enjoys the luxuries that his position as a top private banker has provided. Clients frequently recommended him to wealthy friends. “The number of times people enthused about him was amazing,” said one.

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British scuba diver dies exploring shipwreck off US coast

Steven Slater, 46, of Gateshead, was part of a group diving to see wreckage of Andrea Doria ocean liner off Nantucket

A British scuba diver has died exploring the wreckage of an ocean liner off the US coast.

The man, named as Steven Slater, 46, of Gateshead, was part of a group diving to see the Andrea Doria, an Italian ship that sank off the coast of Nantucket, Massachusetts, in 1956.

Crew members from the Ol Salty II boat are said to have pulled Slater unconscious from the water on Monday, and he was later pronounced dead.

A statement from the family, posted on the Facebook page of the Underwater Marketing Company, said: It is with absolute sadness that we have to tell you that Steven died on Monday 24th July whilst diving in the United States. We are all heartbroken but draw comfort knowing he was doing something that he loved.

A post on the Eurotek Advanced Diving Conference page said: Steve was a hugely respected and well-liked British wreck and technical diver. Steve pursued his passion, actively researching then searching and diving missing wrecks with his friends.

The SS Andrea Doria sank in the Atlantic en route to New York when it collided with the MS Stockholm, killing 46 people.

Ol Salty IIs captain, Nick Caruso, said on Facebook: Were coming home. Sad end. Our deepest, sorrow and sympathy to the family and friends of the lost brother wreck diver.

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Fashion retailer Boohoo criticized for using thin models for plus-size clothing and charging a ‘fat tax’

An online fashion retailer is under fire on social media for the way its marketing and pricing plus-size clothing.

On Tuesday, a woman called out U.K. based company Boohoo on Twitter for using a small-sized model on its website to sell what it considers a plus-size swimsuit.

Anyone else majorly offended that this is a ‘plus size’ bikini on a ‘plus size’ model?!?! no wonder girls think they are ‘fat,’ the user wrote, alongside a photo showing the model in a pink and white crochet bikini.


Others agreed with her, commenting how angry they feel about the misrepresentation, suggesting Boohoo should’ve used a curvier model.

Another tweet posted Monday brought attention to a different ad on Boohoos website, this time for a plus-size jumpsuit. The Twitter user pointed out that, according to the product description, the model is wearing a U.K. size 6 (approximately a U.S. size 2).

So @boohoo … is this a typo or do you actually have a size SIX modelling your plus range?? she wrote.

Boohoo is also being accused of charging a so-called fat tax on larger clothing.

Body-positive campaign “Free to be OK” tweeted a picture of two different Boohoo maxi dresses that appear to be the same style, only one is plus-size. However the plus version costs five pounds (about $6.50 USD) more than the non-plus version. The campaign is urging the company to stop charging plus-size women more money.

“The use of non-plus models to represent plus-size lines encourages body dysmorphia, especially when [Boohoos] target market is largely young women vulnerable and impressionable to marketing, Jen Eastwood, an organizer for Free To Be OK With Me, told Yahoo Style. She also belives that this pricing disparity is taking advantage of an increasing plus-size population.”

Not everyone agrees, however. Commenters noted that men also pay more for larger sizes and that it makes sense because bigger clothing requires more material.

Representatives for Boohoo were not immediately available for comment. 

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Prince William, Kate Middleton and Prince Harry post job ad on LinkedIn

The British royal family is hiring and theyre using LinkedIn to find a worthy candidate.

Prince William, his wife Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, along with younger brother Prince Harry are looking to hire a new senior communications officer for their Royal Foundation.

While the job ad was posted 15 days ago, Fortune reported Tuesday nearly 1,000 people have already applied, with almost 50 applicants in the past day alone. The position has currently attracted 6,285 views on the employment-oriented social networking site.

The Duke and Duchess toast Her Majesty The Queen at the garden party in her honour at the Ambassador’s Residence in Berlin.

A post shared by Kensington Palace (@kensingtonroyal) on

This role will work both reactively and proactively to manage the daily news flow to the media, ensuring items are accurately and positively reported and received by audiences via traditional, digital and social media, said the listing.

The position is a mid-senior level full-time job based in London. The chosen candidate will also be required to conduct research for special projects, participate in strategic discussions, as well as provide support to the overall communications team.

Applicants must have extensive experience within a marketing, media or PR office, with a relevant degree (or equivalent qualification) and, ideally, have experience of working with the charity sector, added the listing. The ability to make decisions, using integrity and judgement whilst exercising caution, is also an essential requisite for the job, as is the ability to handle sensitive information with tact and discretion at all times.

William and Kate share two children: 4-year-old Prince George and 2-year-old Princess Charlotte. Prince Harry has stirred headlines recently for his current relationship with Suits actress Meghan Markle.

Do widzenia Polsko! Thank you for a wonderful couple of days in your country We had a fantastic time! #RoyalVisitPoland

A post shared by Kensington Palace (@kensingtonroyal) on

A rep for the royal family did not immediately return Fox News request for comment.

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Not so fast: Despacito singers tell Nicols Maduro to stop using remixed song

Venezuelan presidents attempt to co-opt the global hit for political purposes backfires with Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee calling the use illegal

Venezuelan president Nicols Maduros attempt to use Latin hit Despacito – which means slowly to inject some cool into his controversial new congress has backfired quickly.

Maduros unpopular leftist government on Sunday promoted a remixed version of Despacito to encourage Venezuelans to vote for the Constituent Assembly, which will have powers to rewrite the national charter and supersede other institutions.

Our call to the Constituent Assembly only seeks to unite the country … Despacito! goes the Socialist Party-sanctioned remix of the catchy dance song, which was played during Maduros weekly televised show.

What do you think, eh? Is this video approved? a grinning and clapping Maduro called out to the crowd, which roared back in approval.

But Puerto Rican singers Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee on Monday said they do not approve at all.

At no point was I asked, nor did I authorize, the use or the change in lyrics of Despacito for political ambitions, and much less in the middle of a deplorable situation that Venezuela, a country I love so much, is living, Fonsi said in a message posted on Twitter.

Daddy Yankee, meanwhile, posted a picture of Maduro with a big red cross over it on Instagram.

That you illegally appropriate a song (Despacito) does not compare with the crimes you commit and have committed in Venezuela. Your dictatorial regime is a joke, not only for my Venezuelan brothers, but for the entire world, he said.

With this nefarious marketing plan, you only highlight your fascist ideal.

Millions of Venezuelans have been staging months of protests against Maduro, a former bus driver and union leader narrowly elected to replace the late Hugo Chavez in 2013.

Some 100 people have died in the unrest, which has further hammered an imploding economy that is running short of food and medicine.

Critics say Maduro is trying to cement a dictatorship by pushing forward with the Constituent Assembly this Sunday. He says it is the only way to bring peace back to the convulsed nation.

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This woman lost 99 pounds without following a diet

A 23-year-old who lost 99 pounds has confessed she hates diets and revealed how she really shed the weight.

About two years ago, Chloe Longstaffs brother was engaged to be married and she was a bridesmaid, but had a shocking wake-up call when she struggled to fit into her dress.

She then decided to transform herself from a fast food addict to a health junkie.

Before losing weight, she gorged on packs of biscuits, blocks of chocolate and bags of chips, eating it all in just one sitting.

She weighed more than 220 pounds and was just 5 feet 3 inches tall, and bingeing was to blame for the weight she gained during her teenage years.

Shes now dropped to almost 139 pounds but admits it hasnt been easy.


Even in the early stages of weight loss I had episodes of binges, often when I would be having a cheat night, she wrote on her weight loss blog.

For example I would have a pizza for my cheat meal, sometimes with a side of fries and garlic bread, but then I would need something sweet afterwards so would often have a bar of sharing chocolate then raid the cupboards because I thought Ive started eating now I may as well continue.

Longstaff, a marketing executive from England, said she dropped her weight naturally, and her secret weapon was she never once followed a diet.

Writing on her blog, she said she did not have weight loss surgery or take magic pills and shortcuts

I have lost all of my weight by following a healthy balanced lifestyle consisting of lots of healthy food and plenty of exercise, she said.

I count calories and log all of my meals in a food diary to ensure I am in a calorie deficit over the week, meaning that I make sure to burn more calories than I consume, allowing my body to be burning fat resulting in weight loss.

Longstaff said when she began losing weight, she put herself in a healthy mindset. Even when she weighed more than 242 pounds she said she believed in herself.

Having self-belief makes you far more likely to stick to your plan and achieve your goal, she said.

Additionally, having the ability to pick yourself up after a bad day is important, as an emotional eater myself, I understand the temptation of going home after a bad day to binge eat in order to feel better, however this is a temporary solution with both mental and physical damages in the long term.

This journey was not easy so I wont position it as all fun and smiles.

I have faced many challenges, had several setbacks, laughed and cried.

This article originally appeared on

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Chicago Pokemon Go festival goes awry when players can’t log in

A gathering of Pokemon Go aficionados in Chicago’s Grant Park went wrong Saturday when a technical glitch prevented many players from logging into the game.

As many as 20,000 players had been expected at the event to mark the one-year anniversary of the augmented reality game’s debut. Players use GPS to locate, capture, battle and train virtual creatures.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that John Hanke, the CEO of game developer Niantic, was booed when he tried to explain the issue to the crowd. Hanke promised that “the whole Niantic team” was working to fix a glitch in the server and log-on problems with cellular service providers AT&T, Sprint and Verizon.

One man told the Sun-Times he was surprised that Niantic hadn’t brought in equipment to improve cellular coverage in the park, adding, “I didn’t expect it to go well.”

At one point, the paper reported that Niantic’s chief marketing officer instructed AT&T customers to migrate toward a specific cell tower near a corner of the park and suggested that everyone try using Wi-fi.

“Obviously, today has not gone as planned,” Mike Quigley told reporters, according to the Chicago Tribune. “It has been a really unfortunate situation.”

Early in the afternoon, Niantic announced that organizers would refund the event’s original $20 ticket cost and receive $100 in credits for use on the Pokemon Go app.

Some in attendance paid as much as $400 online for the tickets when they sold out within minutes of their June release.

Niantic says Pokemon Go has been downloaded 750 million times.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Star Wars Introduced Adorable Space Penguins Into Its Universe & Twitters In Love

The universe is full of a lot of things, but one thing you don’t come by too often in a galaxy far, far away is cuteness. It’s not too easy to imagine a creatureyou want to cuddle with existing in the same universe that gave us Jabba the Hutt or Jar Jar Binks, but is giving us just that.

The new movie will include the most adorable creature the legendary franchise has ever seen, and fans are squealing accordingly. Meet the porgs, tiny intergalactic puffins we’re going to be seeing a lot of in.

Porgs first showed up for a quick second in the trailer released at the D23 conference earlier this week, and now is giving us a closer work by posting the adorable concept art online. Check it out below.

And obviously, everyone is already obsessed with these little cuties.

These little guys have already won the hearts of every fan with just one look, and now one of the minds behind the porgs is giving us some information about them and how they’ll fit into the new movie.

Lucasfilm creative executive Pablo Hidalgo told porgs are native to Ahch-To, the island planet Luke Skywalker exiled himself on, which we see at the end of. He also confirmed they’re basically the outer space counterparts to puffins.

Porgs are native to Ahch-To, and can be found dwelling along the cliffs of the island where Luke and Rey are. In many ways, they’re the version of puffins. They build nests. They can fly. Their babies are called porglets.

Hidalgo also revealed porgs are curious and friendly creatures that are rendered through a mixture of puppetry and CGI. But most importantly, he predicted that every fan is going to want a porg as a pet, which I can already confirm is definitely true.

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