This March, Chelsea’s Reserve and Academy side will return to Dallas, Texas for participation in the Dallas Cup, a prestigious youth tournament in its 31st year. After finishing as runners-up three years ago, they’ll be looking to go one better this time.
Back in 2007, a squad featuring the likes of Ben Sahar, Sam Hutchinson, and Michael Woods came through the group stage with wins against Guadalajara (2-1), Takigawa (4-1) and Arsenal USA (5-1) to qualify for the Semi Finals, where they would face an impressive Southampton team. A solitary Nana Ofori-Twumasi goal secured a place in the Final, but the trophy was not to head home to London, but instead went to Brazil’s Sao Paulo, who triumphed by the same one goal scoreline.
Now, under Steve Holland (and not Brendan Rodgers as it was), the Blues have been invited back as a marquee guest and, as usual, the competition features teams from every corner of the globe. Representation from England also comes from Tottenham Hotspur, themselves having a fine youth campaign, whilst Japan sends a national Under-19 side. Mexico and the United States follow suit, Canada are represented by the Vancouver Whitecaps, Germany by Eintracht Frankfurt and Brazil by Cruzeiro. Over eight days, 16 teams will compete at various locations in Dallas (with big fixtures played at the 21,000 capacity Pizza Hut Park) in hope of becoming the 31st tournament winner.
Since its inception in 1980, the Dallas Cup has played host to teams and referees from over 45 states, 100 countries and 6 continents. The tournament is held every spring from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. In addition to the main ‘Super’ Under-19 tournament, competition takes place for all age groups down to 12 year-olds, and well over 100,000 spectators watch annually. Competition will be tough, particularly from the host team. FC Dallas’ roster (view it here) features 2009 Development Academy Player of the Year Ruben Luna, and is coached by 2009 Development Academy Coach of the Year Oscar Pareja.
For Chelsea, the squad list is largely made up of the Under-18 squad, supplemented by a smattering of reserve team players:
Sam Walker, Nikki Ahamed, Kenny Strickland, Daniel Mills Pappoe, Ben Gordon, Conor Clifford, Jacopo Sala, Kaby, Daniel Philliskirk, Josh McEachran, Gokhan Tore, Milan Lalkovic, Billy Knott, Rohan Ince, Bobby Devyne, Aziz Deen-Conteh, Billy Clifford, James Ashton, Marko Mitrovic, George Saville, Ben Sampayo, Anton Rodgers
The list is, naturally, a provisional one and may well change before they jet off in six weeks time.
The competition draw was held earlier this week and has paired Chelsea against the hosts in the opening fixture, at Pizza Hut Park. Also on the agenda for the Blues are LD Alajuelense (Costa Rica) and CF Monterrey (Mexico), which will provide the team with different styles and scenarios from around the world, something the club aims to achieve by entering tournaments such as this one.
The group draw in full:
Group A: CHELSEA, FC Dallas, LD Alajuelense, CF Monterrey
Group B: Cruzeiro, Hoffenheim, Guadalajara, CZ Elite
Group C: Tottenham Hotspur, Japan, Tigres, Dallas Texans
Group D: Eintracht Frankfurt, Vancouver Whitecaps, Mexico, USA
You can keep right up to date on Chelsea’s involvement in the Dallas Cup here on CFCnet both in the build-up to the competition and right throughout the tournament itself. Visit the Official Tournament Website for a complete run-down of how things are going and how it all works, and don’t forget you can also follow events on Twitter, either on @chelseayouth or @dallascup.