The FGCU men’s soccer program announced Wednesday night that it would be hosting Major League Soccer team New York City FC at the beginning of preseason.
The MLS newcomer, who just concluded its inaugural season with the North American league, will be at FGCU for 11 days for training camp beginning on Jan. 22. The team will finish off its spell at FGCU with an exhibition match against the Eagles on Jan. 31.
NYFC is headlined by three of the most decorated players in soccer history. Andrea Pirlo, who won the World Cup with Italy in 2006 is arguably one of the best central midfielders to step foot on a pitch. Pirlo had 116 caps for the Italian national team and spent the bulk of his career playing for Italian club AC Milan and spent his last four years in Italy playing with Juventus before making the move to the MLS.
“We’re obviously excited,” said FGCU head coach Bob Butehorn. “Some of the best players —even their coach I idolized as a player so for me. You have guys like (Andrea) Pirlo, (Frank) Lampard, (David) Villa and Patrick (Vieira). We are going to have a good time. I hope it translates into some growth in the area. We are really stoked they’re here.”
Frank Lampard, who is English Premier League club Chelsea’s all-time leading scorer with 211 goals, made the move to NYCFC in 2015. Lampard had 106 caps for the English national team, spent 13 years with Chelsea and won Europe’s most illustrious trophies, the UEFA Champions League with the club in 2012 and the club’s first and only Champions League title.
Captain David Villa, the first player to announce his move to NYCFC, is one of the best finishers to wear the industrious red for Spain. A World Cup winner in 2010, Villa had 97 caps for the Spanish National team and is Spain’s all-time leading goal-scorer with 59 goals. In his first year as the captain of NYCFC, Villa found the back of the net 18 times in 30 appearances for the club.
After trading its fourth pick in the MLS Superdraft for the number one pick, NYCFC drafted Wake Forrest standout Jack Harrison. Harrison, who will join the likes of the legendary players on the team, scored 8 goals and tallied 11 assists in his freshman season at Wake Forrest and was named ACC Offensive Player of the Year.
Former Arsenal and French legend Patrick Vieira will come into training camp with high ambitions in his first year as the manager of NYCFC. The former Manchester City reserve manager will look to lead the NYCFC to a successful season after finishing eighth in the Eastern Conference and 17th in the MLS.
“It’s going to be something the players will always remember,” Butehorn said. “We have been fortunate to play against some really good players over the years but this probably cap that one off.”
It will be a day of debuts for Vieira as the new coach and Harrison as they face off against FGCU at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 31 at the FGCU Soccer Complex. Advance tickets will be $5 to $10, eventually going up to $10 to $15.