Organizers for the July 29 international soccer friendly between Spain’s Athletic Bilbao and Mexico’s Club Tijuana may have to move the game up to July 18 or 19 to accommodate Athletic Bilbao’s schedule.
The Spanish club finished seventh in its league Saturday, earning it a spot in the qualifying round of 2015-16 Europa League, Europe’s second most prestigious club tournament.
The originally scheduled July 29 date for the Basque Soccer Friendly at Albertsons Stadium fell during Bilbao’s preseason under every scenario unless it finished seventh in La Liga standings. The first leg of qualifying for the Europa League is July 30 and Bilbao can’t play its first team in both games.
Bilbao has one last shot to avoid the qualifying round for the Europa League — an upset over international power Barcelona on its home field in the Copa del Rey final Saturday. Copa del Rey is the top club tournament in Spain, and winners received guaranteed berths into the Europa League.
If Bilbao beats Barcelona, the Basque Soccer Friendly will remain July 29 to kick off Jaialdi.
“We’ve had it in our contract that we may have to deal with this,” said Argia Beristain, the sponsorship director of the game. “So we have to deal with it.”
Beristain said organizers will devise a plan to refund fans unable to attend the earlier game if they have to reschedule the friendly.
The top four teams from Spain’s La Liga qualify for the Champions League, Europe’s top club tournament. Bilbao qualified for the Champions League last season.
The fifth- and sixth-place teams earn automatic berths into the Europa League. But the seventh-place team, which is Bilbao this year, must win a home-and-home series against a yet-to-be-determined opponent to play into the tournament.
“It shows the quality of the teams we are bringing,” Beristain said. “But we are at the mercy of sports.”