Centralised youth leagues help identify Poland's talents of tomorrow
Central Youth League has been created by Polish FA in 2013
Currently has three categories: U-15, U-17 and U-18 incorporating 32 teams
FIFA Forward support saw U-15 and U-17 age categories introduced in 2017
Considered as the most popular sport in Poland, football is more than a passion in the Eastern European country. It brings fans together and helps to reduce social isolation, especially in the most remote areas.
The development of football infrastructure and the constant increase in numbers of the coaches in recent years, combined with the increased interest in football among young people, created the foundation upon which the Polish Football Federation (PZPN) was called to build its future strategy.
Since 2013, PZPN identified and analysed the problem of the lack of coordination within their youth competition system, reorganising it to form the Central Youth League. The first step was to set up the unified player-oriented competition system. Provide the necessary resources and supplies, on top of making the system fully operational, was also an important part of the process.
The influence of the Central Youth League on the development of football in Poland is two-dimensional. Mainly, it intensifies the development of youth football in Poland by organising competitions into three age categories (U-15, U-17 and U-18), making it possible to improve the skills of young football players by seeing them regularly face off against the best of their peers across the country. In addition, it also allows the coaches of individual Polish national teams to monitor and identify the best players in the respective age groups.
The competitions take place in a fall-spring two-round system, incorporating 32 teams in four groups of 8 teams each, with a promotion and relegation system in place after each round of the U-17 and U-15 categories. U-15 and U-17 were introduced in 2017, while the age limit in the U-19 category was lowered in 2018 to U-18 .
The project also involved the popularisation of football in Poland using the successes of national teams on the international stage. By organising Central Youth League competitions and running the School of Coaches in Biała Podlaska, the Polish Football Association is striving to promote football through marketing and sponsorship activities, thus inspiring and motivating young people to participate in their favourite sport.
Thanks to the support of the FIFA Forward programme, the potential for youth league development has already become a reality in many countries worldwide and with similar success stories, there is no doubt other member associations will follow the same direction by focusing on the professionalisation and centralisation of their youth championships.