Summer tournament update
Posted by nickogs20 on May 18, 2008
Domestic competition may be off the agenda until next season for the reserves and academy but, much like the role Euro 2008 will play for those starved of top-level senior football, there are a number of tournaments lined up over the months ahead to help keep us fans of youth football occupied until the bread and butter kicks off again in August.
Marveld (May 30-June 1)
The 19th Marveld International tournament will take place at the end of this month in the Dutch town of Groenlo. Marveld is an annual tournament for U15 sides from top European clubs (meaning the 2008 edition is for players born on or after 1.1.1993), and with twelve teams participating this year there are two groups of six (Group Pepsi and Group Orange Neutral). Each team will play five group games of 20 minutes each way – the top two in each group go forward to the semi-finals and subsequently the final/3rd-4th playoff, while the rest of the teams playoff against the side finishing in the same position in the other group to decide the rest of the classification.
This year will be United’s sixth time at Marveld and they will be hoping to improve on a best finish of 6th, which they achieved last year. They have been drawn in Group Pepsi, and their match schedule is as follows:
30.5.08 – Real Madrid @ 8.30pm
31.5.08 – Olympique Marseille @ 10.30am, Ajax Amsterdam @ 1.30pm, FC Twente/Heracles @ 3.30pm
01.6.08 – Ajax Cape Town @ 9.30am
The knockout stages and classification matches will then take place throughout the rest of the final day, with the final at 4pm. It’s a tough group for United but that’ll be exactly what the coaches want – it’s a great chance for them to assess these young players in serious competitive action ahead of scholarship decisions over the next couple of years. It’s also a great chance for us to get an all too rare glimpse at the kids in this age group and the talent hopefully coming through.
You can check out the official Marveld site here.
Milk Cup (July 28-August 1)
The Northern Ireland Milk Cup is one of the most long-running and prestigious youth tournaments in world football, regularly attracting representation from the very biggest clubs in the game. The tournament features three age groups – Elite (U19 national sides), Premier (U17 club and national sides) and Junior (U15 club and national sides), and takes place over five days in the Coleraine area of County Londonderry. Past winners include United, Barcelona, Liverpool, Fluminense and Rangers, while players to have featured in the past include Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and Wayne Rooney. There were 30 players at the 2002 World Cup who had played in the Milk Cup earlier in their career, which kinda says it all.
United will be one of 24 participants in the Premier section of the Milk Cup, as has typically been the case in previous years. United have won the section twice (in 1991 with the famous ‘class of 92’ and in 2003) and came extremely close to doing so for a third time last year, a 2-1 defeat in the final against Fluminense of Brazil seeing them come up just short. Kicking off on Monday July 28th, the Premier section sees 12 randomly drawn ties involving all 24 sides on each of the first two days. After these two games each, the 24 sides are split into the top 8 (who go on to play for the Milk Cup), the middle 8 (who will play for the BT Trophy) and the bottom 8 (who will play for the Dunluce Trophy). The three separate tournaments then progress in a knockout format, with quarter-finals, semi-finals and then finals over the next three days.
The draw has paired the Reds with New Zealanders Otago on the Monday, with slightly more local opposition on the Tuesday in the form of County Armagh. Anyone born on or after 1st January 1991 is eligible for the Premier section, so as well as next season’s crop of first years and a select few U16’s making the step up, United will be able to call upon several second years (including Federico Macheda, Matty James, Oliver Norwood and Cam Stewart) to give the side some experience (if experience is not something of an oxymoron when talking about youth football) – providing they’re not already out in the Far East preparing for the tournament I’m about to come onto…
You can check out the official Milk Cup site here.
Champions Youth Cup (August 5-16)
The third and final tournament is arguably the biggie – the Champions Youth Cup in Malaysia. Last year may have been the inaugural tournament but it has already established itself as perhaps THE most prestigious youth competition in football right now. United were of course the winners of the cup last year, beating teams of the calibre of Barcelona, Porto, Flamengo and Juventus en route, and the line-up is similarly impressive this year. All the above teams return to Kuala Lumpur, along with Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Ajax, AC Milan, Lyon, PSV Eindhoven and River Plate – we’re basically looking at an U19 Club World Championship.
Those teams, along with Malaysian, Chinese, Indian and Qatari international sides, will compete in a format that is essentially the same as this summer’s European Championships. Four groups of four, and the top two in each group after everyone’s played each other will progress to the knockout stages. One subtle difference is the match-length – 35 minutes each way rather than the standard 45, and no extra-time at any stage.
United have been drawn in Group D (based in the scenic east coast resort town of Kuala Terengganu) and their opponents include two sides they encountered last year and something of an unknown quantity. Juventus were beaten by a solitary Febian Brandy strike in last year’s final, while Porto suffered a similar fate in the opening group game of last year’s campaign. The Chinese U19 side will be the wild card in the group. With the tournament being for U19’s, players born on or after 1.1.89 are eligible – this means that as well as all first, second and third year academy players being available next year, United will also be able to call upon Febian Brandy, James Chester, Craig Cathcart, Richard Eckersley, Tom Cleverley and Ron-Robert Zieler from the year group above, as well as Brazilian midfielder Rodrigo Possebon.
Brian McClair said after last year’s tournament that “It was such a great experience playing some of the best teams in Europe that you just cannot replicate. You won’t get a better competition anywhere. There were plenty of benefits and no bad experiences”, and it’s not hard to see why. Everything about this tournament is big-time, from the teams taking part to the venues being used, from the widespread TV coverage to the impressive quality of football. Three weeks a long way from home playing on as high profile a stage as you’ll get in club youth football whilst simultaneously being involved in local community and youth projects in Malaysia is a massive opportunity for our youngsters to grow as players, as people and as professionals.
You can check out the official CYC website here.