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FC Cincinnati To Host Espanyol Of Spain's Top League In July Friendly

Courtesy Espanyol and FC Cincinnati

FC Cincinnati will face a second Spanish team in an international friendly match this summer. Espanyol of La Liga, Spain's top league, is coming to town July 28 at 7:30 p.m.

Formally known as Reial Club Deportiu Espanyol de Barcelona (RCD Espanyol), Espanyol is located in Barcelona and finished in 11th place last season.

FC Cincinnati hosted Valencia CF, also of La Liga, last summer, falling 2-nil. In 2016, English Premier League side Crystal Palace FC traveled to Cincinnati, helping the home side draw a sellout crowd for its first-ever international friendly.

A "friendly" is a term for a match between two teams, often from different leagues or countries, that isn't part of a regular league or tournament.

General Manager Jeff Berding says the game will be a public celebration of the team's "ascension" to Major League Soccer.

Tickets start at $15 and go on sale to the general public June 25. Season ticket holders will have a presale option starting Monday, June 18.

"The reason [an international friendly] is important is because we play the world's sport," Berding says. "Our sport is the one sport that has global currency."

He says games like this also help promote Cincinnati to the world, making it an extra selling point as Cincinnati vies to be one of the 16 host cities for the 2026 World Cup.

"It doesn't hurt," Berding says with a laugh. "Alan Pardew (head coach at Crystal Palace during that team's visit to Cincinnati) said in 2016 he'd never seen anything like the atmosphere here, it was like a European Cup final.

"We know what we're about as a city, we know how welcoming we are, and for us to have the opportunity to show that off to our international visitors certainly will help with FIFA and our efforts to secure a host city designation for 2026."

About RCD Espanyol

Espanyol was founded by university students in 1900. It plays in RCDE Stadium in Barcelona in Spain's Catalan region and uses Catalan spellings in its name.

The club colors are blue and white, but it has yellow in its crest to honor its original color.

Notable former players include one of Spain's most famous, goalkeeper Ricardo Zamora, known as "the divine one." He also played for FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, and was Spain's first national team member. Other former players of note are Mauricio Pochettino, who currently coaches Totenham Hotspur in the English Premier League; and Raúl Tamudo, who wore the captain's armband for many years and is the club's all-time leader in terms of games played.

Names football fans may recognize from the 2018 World Cup being played right now in Russia are: Óscar Duarte, a defender from Costa Rica, and Carlos Sánchez, a midfielder from Colombia.

Espanyol is a two-time UEFA Cup finalist and has won the Copa del Rey (the oldest Spanish tournament) four times, the last in 2006.

The team recently acquired a new coach. Joan Francesc "Rubi" Ferrer took over the top job earlier this month after leading his previous team, SD Huesca, to promotion from Spain's second division to La Liga for the first time ever.

Espanyol will be without its top striker. Gerard Moreno left to join Villareal FC in a move announced earlier this week. Though oftentimes, European teams don't play their best players in summertime friendlies such as this. While FC Cincinnati will be in the middle of its season, this is considered pre-season in Europe.

Also, given this is a World Cup year, most of the top international players will likely be resting after the world's top soccer tournament concludes in mid-July.