U.S. To Face Azerbaijan In Polo At Nov. 24 International Cup

The United States has assembled an impressive lineup of experience and up-and-coming players for the Saturday, Nov. 24 International Cup at the Grand Champions Polo Club.

The U.S. is led by 6-goaler Jeff Blake and will be joined by father and son Marc and Grant Ganzi, and Juancito Bollini, who will represent the U.S. for the first time since becoming a U.S. citizen two weeks ago.

The U.S. will face Azerbaijan for the first time in international play in the seventh annual game at 3 p.m., part of a doubleheader that also features the Carlos Gracida Legends of Polo Memorial at 1 p.m. Gates open 12:30 p.m.

It is the seventh time that Grand Champions will host a major international men’s game. The U.S. team is rated at 14 goals and Azerbaijan is 13 goals.

Blake, the highest-rated member of the team, is the winningest American-born Floridian of all time. He has won the U.S. Open three times, twice with Tim Gannon’s Outback Polo Team in 1996 and 1999, and in 2008 with Crab Orchard. He also won the USPA Gold Cup in 1998, 1999 and 2003.

Marc Ganzi, one of the world’s top-rated amateurs at 2 goals, has won or competed in every major polo tournament, including the Westchester Cup. The 2009 U.S. Open champion is also a co-founder of the 26-goal World Polo League, which makes its debut during the 2019 winter season.

Grant Ganzi, at 20 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. He is a member of Team USPA and is rated at 2 goals. He was recently named MVP of the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championship.

Bollini, at 22 the second-youngest player on the team, is the brand ambassador for U.S. Polo Assn. He was a 2015 USPA East Coast Open champion with Audi at age 19 and was a runner-up in last year’s U.S. Open for U.S. Polo Assn. The son of former 8-goal player Juan Bollini of Argentina is rated at 4 goals.

Last year, Team USA (Grant Ganzi, Carlitos Gracida, Julio Arellano and Mike Azzaro) defeated Brazil, 9-7, to capture the sixth annual International Cup event.

The U.S. team will put its six-year winning streak on the line against Azerbaijan, known as “the land of fire and ice,” and one of the most improved polo teams in the world. Recently, Azerbaijan finished runner-up to Italy in the FIP European Championship.

The Azerbaijan team features Andres “LaLa” Laplacette, one of the team’s most recognizable players, who competed at Grand Champions last year. He is rated at 5 goals.

Joining him are Lala’s cousin Adrian Laplacette at 6 goals, Elcin Jamalli at 2 goals and Amil Namazov at 0 goals. Tarlan Gurbanaliyev and Rashad Hasanov are reserves. All are members of the country’s military.

Since 2012, in front of sellout crowds and a worldwide ChukkerTV audience, Team USA has defeated England, Chile, Mexico, South Africa, Uruguay and Brazil for the coveted cup.

The USPA International Cup is a holiday tradition that ends the biggest week of fall polo at Grand Champions.

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. Among those expected to play are Gracida’s sons Carlitos and Mariano, Julio Gracida, Weston Gracida and Juan Bollini.

Proceeds from the doubleheader benefit the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame, a nonprofit 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. For more information, call (561) 644-5050 or visit www.gcpolo.com.