Europe: NextGen Series hopes to inspire future footballers
An exciting new concept in youth football begins on Wednesday as the NextGen Series, billed as an Under-19 equivalent of the UEFA Champions League, begins its maiden season. Sixteen clubs from Europe have entered a team into the inaugural competition with England having the highest representation with four teams followed by the Netherlands and Norway who have two each. Eight countries – Germany, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Turkey, Scotland and Switzerland – all have one entrant each in this fledgling tournament which hopes to prove a suitable stepping stone for future generations of promising young players.
The format of the tournament is similar to that of the UEFA Champions League in that there is a group stage followed by knockout rounds. The sixteen teams are split into four groups of four and, just like in the UEFA Champions League, teams from the same country are kept apart in the group stage. Here is the draw for the group phase of the competition:
GROUP 1: FC Barcelona (Spain), Glasgow Celtic (Scotland), Manchester City (England), Olympique de Marseille (France)
GROUP 2: Liverpool FC (England), Molde FK (Norway), Sporting Clube (Portugal), VfL Wolfsburg (Germany)
GROUP 3: Ajax Amsterdam (Netherlands), Aston Villa (England), Fenerbahçe (Turkey), Rosenborg Trondheim (Norway)
GROUP 4: FC Basel (Switzerland), Internazionale (Italy), PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands), Tottenham Hotspur (England)
The group stages take place from August through to November with the knockout rounds due to be played after the new year. The future looks bright for European football and we can only hope that this exciting initiative gets the thumbs up from the football authorities and will encourage many other clubs to take part in the future.