The World Football Challenge, a series of exhibition games in North America involving top European and Mexican soccer teams, is under way. An overall winner will be chosen, in a rather unusual system.
Though there are nine teams involved, each plays only three games. Thus it is quite possible for an undefeated team to lose the title. Indeed, at this writing, both Real Madrid and Manchester City have finished their games with 3-0 records.
So how to separate the teams? Each game ends after 90 minutes, and if tied, there is an immediate shootout. Wins in regulation are worth 3 points, shootout wins are 2 points, shootout losses 1 point and regulation losses 0 points. Not only that, but there is a bonus point for each goal scored in regulation, win or lose, up to a maximum of three per game.
A couple of the teams are unusual too. Besides five European clubs and two Mexican sides, there are some hybrid "teams": MLS East and MLS West. Each is not really a team per se but rather the total points earned by several Major League Soccer teams. MLS East's point total is based on single games played by three different teams: New England, Chicago and Philadelphia. The MLS West side consists of Los Angeles (2 games) and Vancouver (1 game).
Alert readers will have noticed that 9 teams times 3 games each is 27, an odd number. To solve this, Sporting Lisbon played in just one game as a non-competitor. Still, the game it played did count for its opponent, Juventus.
At this writing, Real Madrid has a formidable point total of 17 out of a possible 18. Manchester United has 12 with a game to play, so still could get a perfect 18.
Barcelona hasn't played any of its three games yet. In order to match or surpass its rival Real, it will have to win three times, scoring a lot of goals. But then few teams in the world are more capable of doing so.