The Premier League has today launched the ‘Premier League International Cup’ – a four-group tournament involving some of the top Premier League U21 and elite development teams from England and other European leagues.
The English clubs involved in the tournament are Sunderland, West Ham, Chelsea, Everton, Fulham, Leicester City, Manchester City and Norwich City – with all eight of the clubs having Category One Youth Academies.
The international clubs taking part are Athletic Club Bilbao, Benfica, Borussia Monchengladbach, Celtic, Schalke, Porto, PSV Eindhoven, and Villarreal.
The tournament will be run in a group format, with the four full groups as follows:
Athletic Club Bilbao
Group stage matches will be played between 15 October 2014 and 31 January 2015 with a full fixture programme due to be published shortly.
Clubs will play each team in their group once and all matches, including those between international teams, will be played in England. Upon completion of the group stages the winners and runners-up from each group will progress to the quarter-finals and semi-finals and final, all to be played as single-leg ties in England.
Teams competing in the Premier League International Cup will be filled with U21 players, save for three outfield players and the goalkeeper who can be over 21.
Premier League Director of Youth, Ged Roddy, said: “When we launched the Elite Player Performance Plan in 2012 we recognised that providing competitive opportunities for the 18-21 age group – against English and international opposition – was a key objective in order to prepare Academy players for Barclays Premier League football.
“Since then we are two seasons into a Barclays U21 Premier League that now sees each club play at least three matches at their main stadium, crowds in the thousands watching matches – including more than 10,000 at Norwich v Spurs – and several games broadcast live on Sky Sports and BT Sport.
“The Premier League International Cup will see some of the best young players in this country able to test themselves in competitive matches against some of most talented young players in Europe.”
Sunderland AFC’s Academy manager, Ged McNamee, added: “This is a great opportunity for our players to gain experience against international counterparts. It’s another aspect of the learning process and it will be fantastic for the lads to be able to take on European sides.”