The New York Red Bulls were spared the ignominy of yet another meaningless "trophy" by Paris Saint-Germain, who graciously beat Manchester United. 2-0, in Chicago to claim the 2015 International Champions Cup.
Congrats, PSG. RBNY (winner of - to name a few - the 2004 La Manga Cup, the 2010 Disney Pro Soccer Classic, and the 2011 Emirates Cup) salutes you.
It was a nerve-wracking match for RBNY fans hoping the club might avoid the embarrassment of once again "winning" a marketing exercise dressed up as soccer competition. A win for PSG would bring the French club level on points with the table-topping Red Bulls (who finished ICC undefeated, with three wins and a draw), but the tournament's tie-breakers favored RBNY: three points alone would not be enough for PSG to lift the burden of a makeweight cup from the Red Bulls' shoulders. (Do Bulls have shoulders? Give an answer in the comments, please.)
The first tie-breaker in ICC 2015 is head-to-head record: RBNY did not play PSG in the tournament - so no help there. The second tie-breaker is Goal Difference: RBNY finished its four games with a +5 goal difference; PSG went into the match against Man Utd with +3. The next tiebreaker is Goals For: RBNY scored nine goals; PSG had eight heading into its final game. Finally, Goals Conceded could settle things - but the Red Bulls were already ahead of PSG on that front: four goals conceded in four games, while the French team had allowed five in three matches.
Manchester United could have won ICC outright with a win, but when Blaise Matuidi scored for PSG in the 25th minute, it started to feel as though RBNY fans would need to rely on the team in blue to keep the trophy out of Red Bull Arena.
In the 34th minute, Zlatan Ibrahimovic delivered PSG's second goal - the goal that put his club ahead of RBNY on the Goals For tiebreaker (and level on Goal Difference) - and from that moment, it was a matter of hoping that Man Utd would have the decency to allow the game to proceed to a favorable conclusion for the Red Bulls. The English club obliged, the match finished 2-0 to PSG - and RBNY was relieved of having to add to its stockpile of meaningless baubles.
Thank you, Man Utd. Thank you, PSG. Thank you, Zlatan.
If the Red Bulls win silverware this season, it will be silverware of significance. The ICC distraction is over. RBNY has heartening wins over Chelsea and Benfica to celebrate without the bittersweet addition of an utterly pointless "cup" to try to hide in RBA's tragically under-stocked trophy cabinet.
The Red Bulls finish this year's mid-season marketing bonanza as the only truly unbeaten team in ICC. The tournament used penalty shoot-outs to settle ties, and PSG lost a shootout to Chelsea en route to its 10 points. A
poorly concealed lack of interest in actual competitive coherence quirk of the scoring system meant RBNY gained points for games it played in MLS - a competition that no longer uses penalties to settle ties. So when RBNY drew with LA Galaxy on April 26, that counted as one point for each team in ICC (as well as MLS).
As such, RBNY finished its stint in the 2015 International Champions Cup with the best of all possible worlds: the relative glory of being unbeaten in the tournament without the shame of having to explain why it seems to find to relatively easy to rack up trophies in meaningless competitions while reliably ducking the cups that carry actual significance (except in 2013; we'll always have 2013).
On to bigger and better things, we hope, for the Red Bulls. And congratulations and thanks again to PSG.