This year, Belo Horizonte plays host to the Future Champions tournament which sees a selection of the world’s finest under-17 club sides take part in a week-long tournament in the Brazilian city.
Yesterday saw the opening day of the tournament with a total of six matches played.
Manchester United didn’t get off to the best of starts as they lost 1-0 to Brazilian side, Corinthians.
Boca Juniors thrashed Tijuana 3-0 in their opener whilst Colo Colo and Nacional shared the spoils, drawing 1-1.
Reigning champions Atletico Mineiro started the defence to their title superbly as they defeated Juventus 1-0.
Cruzeiro beat Orlando Pirates 1-0 and Flamengo got off to a brilliant start as they beat Vissel Kobe 3-0.
The tournament was first contested in South Africa in 2009 and this week marks the fifth edition of the tournament, which is held twice per year. Atletico Mineiro are the reigning champions and have lifted the trophy on the past two occasions.
The Gauteng region of South Africa has played host to previous editions but this time Belo Horizonte, located in south-eastern Brazil, has the chance to show the world what it can do.
Manchester United and Juventus are the only European sides in this year’s tournament and play along with the likes of Brazilian giants Flamengo, South African powerhouses Orlando Pirates and Argentinian force Boca Juniors.
The twelve sides are divided into four groups of three teams with every team qualifying to play a second-round match.
First place in each group play against eachother to determine the top four positions whilst the other teams play the same format respective to their positions. This then determines a placing system in which every side receives a ranking.
It is an intense schedule for the youngsters as they play a total of five games throughout the week in the boiling hot conditions of South America. They are provided with a day-off on Thursday but will be almost playing constantly throughout the other matchdays. The tournament will conclude on Sunday with all games determining final positions including the penultimate final match.
This heated schedule is supported by fully professional venues and facilities which are provided for the youth players as they receive a first-class experience as well as the opportunity to mix with different cultures and see how the game is played by other youngsters throughout the world.
The tournament’s official website says:
“The Future Champions Project began in South Africa during the build up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. The project is aimed at youth focusing on high performance, skills development, skills transfer and seeks to contribute to the elevation of the standard of football within the countries that it operates, nurturing the talent of Future Champions.”
The tournament also promotes a healthy relationship between Brazil and South Africa as they attempt to boost the socio-economic and touristic aspects and attributes of their respecitve countries with the help of eachother.
Players will also get the opportunity to visit the stadiums of the 2014 World Cup and really see what Brazil has to offer in terms of football development. Clearly Brazil is one of the top nations when it comes to developping potential footballing talent, but seeing this first-hand is a once-in-a-lifetime chance.
Manchester United and Juventus may have trouble getting used to the temperature in Brazil but they will undoubtedly enjoy the experience and their respective coaches will want to make an impression on the world stage and present how European football is developping and how competitive they can be against the rest of the world.
Stay with The Youth Radar throughout the week as the tournament develops and reaches its final stages.
Future Champions official website – www.future-champions.net
Follow Future Champions on Twitter @FutureChampsU17