THE draw for the 2014 Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament has been completed, with some exciting matches in prospect for the competition that will take place from March 24-29 at the Nike Football Training Centre in Pimville, Soweto.
Such has been the popularity of one of the world’s most prestigious Under-17 tournaments that the field has been expanded from 12 to 16 sides for 2014.
Four of the teams come from the Gauteng Province, with the remainder originating from across the world.
They have been placed into four groups each containing four sides, with the teams meeting each other in a round-robin format. The top teams in each pool will advance to the semi-finals, with the remainder playing off for final positions.
Group A consists of Congo side Brazzaville Academy, making their first appearance, along with Canadian outfit Toronto FC, 2010 Future Champions Gauteng Tournament winners Shandong Luneng of China and local South African side Jomo Cosmos, owned by the legendary Jomo Sono.
Zambian side K-Stars return for the sixth year in a row having enjoyed past success with two semi-final appearances. They finished sixth last year. They have been pooled in Group B along with Brazilian giants Atletico Mineiro, Dutch club Ado Den Haag and South African side SuperSport United.
Group C contains Nigerian region Saki West making their first appearance, along with Qatar’s Aspire Academy who return for the third time to the event, as do Mexican side Club Tijuana, the defending champions from 2013.
Sunward Park High will be the only school team in this event after they qualified via the Gauteng Schools Cup and then the Gauteng Cup.
The English Premiership is represented by Sunderland and have been placed in Group D along with Royal Wahingdoh from India and a select side from the United States Youth Soccer Association (USYSA). They are joined by top local team Mamelodi Sundowns.
“We are delighted with the field we have been able to assemble this year and the fact that it has expanded to 16 teams shows that the Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament is established as one of the world’s leading Under-17 tournaments. There has been a lot of interest from clubs across the globe to compete and we believe the field we have attracted will show a great contrast in style and skills,” tournament director Ray Whelan says.
“We would like to extend our thanks once again to the Gauteng Province for hosting this wonderful event, the facilities and hospitality we receive each year are first class. I am sure that this year’s event will meet everybody’s expectations and more once again.”
The Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament, organised by Global Sports International on behalf of the Gauteng Provincial Government, led by the Gauteng Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation, has grown into one of the top Under-17 competitions on the global football calendar and is now in its sixth year.
Boca Juniors from Argentina were crowned champions in 2009, with Chinese side Shandong Luneng victors in 2010. Clube Atletico Mineiro were the first Brazilian winners when they triumphed in 2011 and then repeated that success in 2012. Mexican side Club Tijuana defeated England’s Everton on penalties in the 2013 decider.