WELLINGTON, FL-Nov. 17, 2017---The United States has assembled one of its strongest teams for this year's USPA International Cup at Grand Champions Polo Club.
The U.S. will have a good mix of experience and youth with 20-goal team Mike Azzaro, 6, Julio Arellano, 8, Carlitos Gracida, 4, and Grant Ganzi, 2, when it faces Brazil in the sixth annual international game on Saturday, Nov. 25th at 3 p.m.
The Brazilian Polo Federation also announced its 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 titles and rated at 10 goals for 13 years, has earned two Most Valuable Player honors for Casablanca in the US 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 Team USA in 2016 against Uruguay and 2015 against South Africa where he earned MVP 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 Pike 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 Team USA to a 10-9 victory over Canada in the Nov. 10, 2016 Royal Polo Match in Toronto. Two weeks later, the Team USA member defeated Uruguay, 6-3, in the International Cup. The two-time USPA NYTS champion 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 its U.S. debut in Friday's opening round of the USPA National 20-Goal tournament at Santa Rita Polo Farm's Buenos Aires Field.
Playing as a team for the first time, Brazil needed two chukkers to find its chemistry and get accustomed to the horses. Trailing Santa Clara by only one in the sixth chukker, Brazil lost an 11-9 decision 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, Delmer 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 FIP World Championships in Sydney, Australia where Brazil defeated Peru, 11-6.5, before being eliminated.
It will be the sixth time Grand Champions Polo Club will host a major international men's game in its 10-year history.
Since 2012 in front of sellout crowds and worldwide ChukkerTV audience, the U.S. has beaten 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 its fifth consecutive title. Arellano was named Most Valuable Player for the second year in a row.
Other past U.S. team victories and rosters were: 2015, U.S. 12, South Africa 7, Marc Ganzi, Jeff Hall, Nic Roldan, Julio Arellano; 2014, U.S. 3, Mexico 2.5 and U.S. 2, Team USPA 1.5, Marc Ganzi, Wes Finlayson, Nic Roldan, Mason Wroe; MVP Roldan; 2013, U.S. 13, Chile 8, Marc Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Jeff Hall, Carlitos Gracida; MVP: Roldan; and 2012, U.S. 8.5, England 6, Marc Ganzi, Carlitos Gracida, Jeff Hall, Nic Roldan; MVP: Roldan.
"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 is 1 p.m. followed by the USPA International Cup at 3 p.m. Gates open at 12:30 p.m.
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. They are:
$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 4 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.
During fall, winter and spring seasons, Grand Champions Polo Club, the nation's largest club with 11 well-manicured fields, hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal in addition to special events.
Grand Champions Polo Cup attracted a record 72 teams during its 2017 winter season that featured the $100,000 World Cup, $50,000 National 12-Goal, 20-Goal Sterling Cup and 20-Goal Molina Cup, and another 18 teams during the spring season.
The entire fall season is being live-streamed on Wellington-based ChukkerTV, leaders in polo broadcasting with cutting-edge technology. ChukkerTV also features team challenges and instant replay which made their debut at Grand Champions in January, 2014.
Grand Champions Polo Club caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. Its' expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of its' Polo On Demand program, the only polo club in the U.S. to offer the unique program.