Stars of the future ready for kick-off
The 79th edition of the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup takes place this week, with the Buchlern sports complex in Zurich hosting ten youth teams from across the globe on Wednesday and Thursday.
The Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup has welcomed clubs from all over the world since its inception in 1939, and this remains one of its biggest draws. Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona, Argentinian rivals River Plate and Boca Juniors, European heavyweights such as Juventus and Bayern Munich, and Guangzhou Evergrande of China have all featured down the years.
As well as attracting some of the beautiful game's biggest clubs, the invitational tournament has also lived up to its slogan: "Where Stars are Born". From David Beckham, Pep Guardiola and Markus Babbel right through to present-day idols such as Nani, Kaka, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Admir Mehmedi, countless famous names have graced the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup throughout its history.
The participants*Group A: Independiente Santa Fe, West Ham United, Olympique Lyon, FC Blue Stars, Grasshopper Club Group B:* Benfica, Anderlecht, Mainz 05, FC St. Gallen, FC Zurich
How it works
The ten teams are split into two groups of five, with each team playing the other four in their group once. After the group fixtures, the winner of Group A faces the winner of Group B in the final, the runners-up in Group A and B meet in a play-off for third place and so on, meaning that each team is ranked from one to ten in an overall table at the end of the tournament.
Each half lasts 20 minutes (although this increases to 25 minutes per half in the final).
Only players born in 1997, 1998 and 1999 are eligible to participate in this year's edition, although each team is permitted to register up to five players born after 31 December 1999.
Manchester United are kings of the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup, with 18 victories. Only four non-European sides have tasted tournament success, with Brazil’s Sao Paulo the first to do so in 1999, before retaining the title a year later. Boca Juniors also have two wins to their name, while Brazilian duo Gremio and Atletico Paranaense have triumphed once apiece.
Clubs from seven different nations will contest the 2017 edition, with English side West Ham and Belgian outfit Anderlecht hoping to improve on last year's podium finishes. Switzerland's Grasshopper Club are the reigning champions.
Several experimental trials of new rules will be tested at the tournament, including a different order of kickers for penalty shoot-outs and substituted players being required to leave the pitch at the nearest point on the touchline or goalline. More here.
The words"We really want to defend the title we won last year. We're not going to be happy with second or third place at the tournament. The team knows what it has to do on the pitch and, if we manage, that then it'll be tough to beat us. However, even then, everything has to click." Boris Smiljanic, coach, Grasshopper Club
You can follow the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup 2017 final LIVE on FIFA.com. The live stream will begin at 16:40 CET on Thursday 25 May.