Hailed as the dawn of a new era in youth football, the NextGen Series is, in principle, a European Cup at U19 level.

Whilst qualification for the competition wasn't based on success at domestic level, many of the top clubs from the continent are represented with a handful of exceptions, with Arsenal, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Manchester United and AC Milan all conspicuous by their absence.

Of the 16 teams involved in the tournament, including Barcelona, it's Tottenham Hotspur who have impressed most out of the English sides.

Placed in Group 4 alongside Inter Milan, Basel and PSV Eindhoven, the Spurs side have accumulated two wins and a draw in their opening three matches, with only the Swiss side holding Tim Sherwood's team at the Stadium Rankhof.

Alongside former striker Les Ferdinand, the management pair have overseen a crop of youngsters who have either gained first team experience since or are knocking on the senior door.

Harry Kane and Tom Carroll have both played in the Europa League this season, whilst Ivorian forward Souleymane Coulibaly has been earning rave reviews for his performances in the competition.

"This is our main focus as such an international tournament offers a great vehicle for players to make the transition to the First Team," said Sherwood before the competition began.


 

Of the other teams in the tournament, Manchester City have only played once thus far, a defeat to Barcelona in Group 1, whilst Liverpool have won two, lost two and drawn one in Group 2. They travel to Sporting Lisbon in their last group game knowing victory is needed for a chance of progressing.

Aston Villa are second in Group 3 behind runaway leaders Ajax, but have acquitted themselves well in the competition thus far having won one, lost one.

Next to the FA Youth Cup in England, the competition is clearly a stepping stone towards competitive football, with big crowds and unprecedented press coverage for academy football.

Whilst the two differ in many ways, a comparison to the NCAA in America would not be too far off the mark, with college students thrown into high-pressure situations both on national television and crowds in their thousands. In affect, it prepares the for a future in top-level sport.

NextGen has a long way to go to gain the same level of coverage and exposure as college sports in America, but its principle is founded on a great idea, and could be the showcase for some of the world's best players in years to come.

Topics:
#Tottenham Hotspur
#European News
#Premier League
Flag article