The United States has assembled one of its strongest teams for this year’s USPA International Cup at Grand Champions Polo Club in Wellington, Florida.
The U.S. will have a mix of experience and youth with 20-goal team Mike Azzaro (6), Julio Arellano (8), Carlitos Gracida (4) and Grant Ganzi (2), when they face Brazil in the sixth annual international game on Saturday, November 25 at 3:00pm ET. The Brazilian Polo Federation also announced their 19-goal squad that features Flavio Castilho (5), Gustavo Toledo (5), Guilherme Lins (5) and Caio Mello (4).
The U.S. team is headed by legendary American Hall of Famer and former 10-goaler Mike Azzaro who will make his International Cup debut. Azzaro, winner of eight U.S. Open Polo Championship® titles and rated at 10-goals for 13 years, has earned two Most Valuable Player (MVP) honors for Casablanca in the U.S. Trust Cup and USPA Fall Classic this season.
Nicaragua-born Julio Arellano, rated at 8-goals, has been a member of two winning lineups for the USA in 2016 against Uruguay and 2015 against South Africa where he earned Most Valuable Player honors both games. The Cardinal Newman and Florida Atlantic University alum is one of America’s top-rated polo players.
Carlitos Gracida, 26, the son of legendary Hall of Famer and former 10-goaler Carlos Gracida, will be making his third International Cup appearance. The fourth generation polo player is known for his horsemanship. For the past two years he has played a key role in Dutta Corp’s success with teammates Peke Alberdi and Tim and Timmy Dutta.
Grant Ganzi, at 19, the youngest member of the team, is a third generation polo player following in the footsteps of his grandfather Wally and parents Melissa and Marc Ganzi. The Lynn University sophomore won his international debut and scored five goals to lead the USA to a 10-9 victory over Canada in the November 10, 2016, Royal Polo Match in Toronto, Canada. Two weeks later, the Team USA member defeated Uruguay 6-3 in the International Cup. A two-time national Youth Tournament Series champion, Ganzi has won the 20-goal Herbie Pennell Cup and competed in the Joe Barry, Ylvisaker and Iglehart tournaments among others.
Brazil, also with a mix of veteran and young players, made their U.S. debut in last week’s opening round of the National Twenty Goal® tournament hosted by Grand Champions Polo Club in Wellington, Florida, at Santa Rita Polo Farm’s Buenos Aires Field.
Playing as a team for the first time, Brazil needed two chukkers to find their chemistry and get accustomed to the horses. Trailing Santa Clara by only one in the sixth chukker, Brazil lost 11-9, but was pleased with the game. “This was like practice for us but we were serious,” Guilherme Lins said. “We have all played against each other but never together so this was good for us to play together.” Brazil coach Jose Mirelles, who walked around the field while coaching, said the team is training for the next World Cup. The team plans more practice sessions at Santa Rita before the International Cup. “We know the U.S. will be tough and today was fun, but we take this very serious, it is for our country,” Toledo said. “It is an honor for us to play in this game.”
Guilherme Lins was a member of the Brazilian team that defeated the U.S. team of Azzaro, Del Walton and Tommy Biddle 11-5 in the 2015 Fortune Heights Snow Polo World Cup. Lins, one of his country’s top players, also competed in the recent XI FIP World Polo Championship Playoffs, where Brazil defeated Peru 11-6.5 before being eliminated.
2017 will mark the sixth time Grand Champions Polo Club will host a major international men’s game in its ten-year history. Since 2012, in front of sellout crowds and worldwide ChukkerTV audience, the U.S. has defeated England, Chile, Mexico, South Africa and Uruguay in the annual battle for the coveted cup.
In last year’s USPA International Cup, Team USA (Marc Ganzi, Grant Ganzi, Julio Arellano, Nic Roldan) defeated Uruguay 6-3 to claim their fifth consecutive title. Arellano was named Most Valuable Player for the second year in a row.
“It’s always awesome to represent the U.S.,” Arellano said. “That’s something we are all very proud of. You never want to let your country down. There were a lot of people on the sidelines rooting for us as a country rather than a certain team. It was a great honor.”
The USPA International Cup will be part of a polo doubleheader, a holiday tradition that ends the biggest week of fall polo and season at Grand Champions Polo Club. The opening game of the doubleheader is the Carlos Gracida Legends of Polo Memorial, continuing the Hall of Famer’s legacy by honoring one of the sport’s all-time greats, who died tragically in February, 2014 at age 53. The Legends game will be played at 1:00pm ET followed by the USPA International Cup at 3:00pm ET. Gates open at 12:30pm ET.
Proceeds from the doubleheader benefit The Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame, a non-profit educational organization, dedicated to fostering an appreciation of the development, history and tradition of the sport of polo by collecting, preserving, exhibiting and interpreting its collections as well as honoring those who have made outstanding contributions to the sport.
Tickets and various sponsorships are still available. Tickets, ranging from $20 to $1500 are still on sale:
•$1,500 VIP Sponsor: Includes one reserved table for eight in the VIP tent, corporate partner signage and parking.
•$250 Grand Champions Tailgate Package: Includes a reserved tailgate spot with parking for one car, a tent and one table with four chairs.
•$200 VIP Pavilion Tickets: Includes one VIP admission ticket to the VIP tent with a field side view of the game. Enjoy specialty cocktails and food. There is also an early bird VIP Pavilion package available at $150.
•$20 General Admission: Field side parking not included. For tickets, tailgates and sponsorships call 561-644-5050.
All photos ©ChukkerTV.