Chelsea have announced this morning that they have signed a three-year deal to enter the NextGen Series from next season.
After the relative success of the inaugural campaign, the Blues have agreed to join a competition they were involved in trialling during the 2010-11 season when they played both Bayern Munich and Celtic in friendly matches.
The NextGen Series is an Under-19 competition featuring some of Europe’s most prestigious names and is loosely formatted in the same way as the Champions League. This year, sixteen teams were drawn into four groups where they each played six matches.
Last night, Ajax defeated Liverpool 3-0 in the first Semi Final, whilst Inter take on Marseille in the other last four clash to be held at Brentford’s Griffin Park Stadium.
The Final will take place at Leyton Orient’s Matchroom Stadium at the end of the month.
Initial plans for the competition were perhaps grandiose, with talk of a national television deal and a finals stage to be held in the Middle East, but it’s important to remember that it’s still a fledgling organisation which is already expanding from 16 to 24 teams for year two.
Chelsea are the first additional team to be confirmed, whilst Real Madrid are believed to be close to joining a field which already includes Barcelona and PSV as well as English sides Manchester City and Aston Villa.
Ajax have been this year’s standout side, but they have also opted to play a fully Under-19 side against opponents who are often much younger. For example, Barcelona sent what was effectively an Under-16 side to play them and were duly eliminated as star player Viktor Fischer continued his domination of this season’s tournament.
Chelsea will have a large squad of players to choose from, particularly with a huge first-year intake due for next summer, and their participation in the series will run alongside the re-designed domestic youth competitions under the Elite Player Performance Plan.
Home matches could take place at Stamford Bridge, or they could be at Staines Town’s Wheatsheaf Park, logistics pending. Chelsea TV will hopefully be able to cover them home and away, with the youngsters now benefitting from the possibility of playing away from home in Europe against top class sides.
As more information develops on next year’s competition, you can keep right up to date with the latest news on Twitter by following @chelseayouth.