The Under 16 team from the Cayman Islands Youth Football Programme will be returning this month to Las Vegas for the fourth time to participate in the 2016 Mayor’s Cup International Showcase.
The team will be competing in the Under 16 division with first round games against LA United FA Pre-Academy (California) and Sparta United Sparta 00 Premier (Utah) scheduled for Saturday, 13 February, and Farmington SA Elite 99 (Connecticut) on Sunday, 14 February. The quarter finals will be played on Sunday, February 14 in the evening with the semi finals and the finals set for Monday, 15 February.
Accompanying the boys for the first time will be a female team that will be participating in the Under 17 Girls’ division. The team comprises players from a number of local clubs including Alliance SC, Sunset FC, Tigers FC and Academy SC.
The 22 boys, six staff members – including three coaches, a manager and physiotherapist – and a number of parents, will depart Grand Cayman on Wednesday, 10 February and return on Wednesday, 17 February.
This will be the fourth time that our local boys will be competing in the tournament in Nevada. In February 2015, the team travelled to Las Vegas to compete in the Under 15 division under the tutelage of Head Coach Ernie “Gillie’ Seymour, Assistant Coach Ken Downey and Assistant Coach and Manager Antwan Seymour.
The Mayor’s Cup International Showcase is one of two annual football (soccer) tournaments co-hosted by the Downtown Las Vegas Soccer Club and the City of Las Vegas, the other being the International Tournament, which is played in May. Each year, the tournament welcomes amateur and professionally-affiliated clubs from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Canada, Mexico, Panama, Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany, China, Poland, France, Australia, Dominican Republic, Denmark and Africa.
This year, the Under 16 division will comprise teams from the United States, Argentina, Canada, Mexico and Germany, specifically Borussia Monchengladbach, who play in Bundesliga 1.
The Under 16s from the Cayman Islands Youth Football Programme have been together since March 2011, training once per week and playing in as many friendly games and competitions with local and foreign teams in preparation for tournaments such as the Mayor’s Cup.
The Cayman Islands Youth Programme consists of 35 of the best players in the Under 17 age group from all clubs in the Cayman Islands. Eighteen players from the Programme represented the Cayman Islands as part of the Under 15 National Team that placed third in the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Under 15 Boys’ Championships in August 2015 in Sint Maarten.
In July 2016, these players will represent the Cayman Islands in the CFU Under 17 World Cup Playoffs for a chance to play in the CONCACAF Under 17 World Cup Qualifiers scheduled for February 2017.
The ultimate goal of the Programme over the next few years is to prepare players to represent the Cayman Islands at the Under 20, Under 23 and Senior levels as members of the Cayman Islands National Teams.
In addition, and more importantly, teams from the Programme will continue to participate in overseas tournaments in the United States and other countries to gain exposure for players in the hope that they will be seen by high school and college coaches and potentially earn scholarships to further their education and play at a higher level.
Also, players will be exposed to professional youth academies in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe. It is anticipated that other young Caymanians may follow in the footsteps of Sebastian Martinez and Kray Foster, who attend the Youth Academy at Swindon Football Club (FC), Leighton Thomas at Yeovil Town’s Youth Academy and Ryan Jackson, Cameron Gray and Nathan Borde at the FAB Football Academy in the United Kingdom.
A number of players travelling with this group have already experienced life at professional academies, in particular, Kareem Foster and Nicholas Chung in the United Kingdom and Devonte Morejon in the Netherlands.
The trip to Las Vegas has been financed through Government assistance, corporate sponsorship and fundraising efforts by the Programme’s players, parents and coaches.
Coordinator of the Cayman Islands Youth Football Programme Neil Murray said, “Our players and coaches are looking forward to returning to Las Vegas for the fourth time. The experiences the boys have encountered during the previous three trips have been invaluable in their development as players on and off the field. We have always had high expectations for this particular group and following on from their history-making third-place finish in the CFU Under 15 Boys’ Championships last August, we anticipate an even better performance in the upcoming Under 17 World Cup Playoffs later this year.”
A press release from the CIYFP said, “Special thanks to corporate sponsors Cayman National, Rotary, Foster’s Food Fair, to Flowers Bottled Water for their sponsorship of water throughout the year and to Island Taste and the Hungry Horse Restaurant for providing healthy snacks for the weekly training sessions. The players and staff also greatly appreciate the public who supported the Programme’s fundraising efforts.”