A Fulham Under-19 squad flies out to Texas on Thursday ahead of their participation in the 37th Dr Pepper Dallas Cup, which kicks off at the weekend.
There are three groups, or brackets, with four teams in each. The Whites are in Bracket A where they will face German outfit TSG 1899 Hoffenheim on Sunday (9.30am), the United States Under-20 national side on Monday (4pm), and CF Monterrey Rayados of Mexico on Wednesday. All kick-off times are local, five hours behind the UK, and we are awaiting confirmation regarding kick-off against Monterrey.
There is a strong English presence at the tournament this year as Everton and Middlesbrough are also competing. All three have been kept apart in the group stages, though.
The winners of each bracket, along with the best second-placed side, will advance to the Semi-Finals on Friday 25th March, with the Final taking place two days later.
2016 marks Fulham’s third time competing at the tournament, and Academy Director Huw Jennings believes it provides the youngsters with experience that’s hard to find elsewhere.
“You can’t replicate tournament football in the league,” he explained. “In international tournaments you come up against a whole raft of different approaches, not only different teams and different styles, but also different conditions. You also come up against different officiating, and all of those things are really key features.
“We go to about 35 international tournaments across the year, most of which we’re invited to because I like to think we have good respect around Europe and further afield.
“It’s a fantastic learning experience for all of those players, so when they hopefully go into the First Team environment and they’re playing for points, they’ll know what’s expected of them.”
Steve Wigley and Peter Grant will both be travelling and have named a 19-man squad for the competition. Only four of those are third-year scholars (Under-19s), but Jennings has no qualms about the age of the boys involved.
“Our philosophy certainly is if you’re good enough then you push through and age isn’t a barrier,” he stated. “Our Under-18s played Blackburn on Saturday morning; a 2-1 win for the lads, which was great for us, and we had two 15-year-olds starting, and that’s what we’re about.
“The Dallas Cup is an Under-19 competition, we play the US Under-20s in one of our group games, and our average age will probably be about 17-and-a-half.
“The whole purpose of competitions like the Dallas Cup is to give our players experiences that otherwise they can’t get.
“This is our third visit, we won it on one occasion with the likes of Cauley Woodrow, Jack Grimmer and Lasse Christensen all in that team, and we are certainly positive about the opportunity that this season provides.”