The Under-16 team from the Cayman Islands Youth Football program will return to Las Vegas next week 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 Feb. 13, and Farmington SA Elite 99 (Connecticut) on Feb. 14. The quarterfinals will be played on Feb. 14 in the evening, with the semifinals and the finals set for Feb. 15.
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 and return on Feb. 17.
This will be the fourth time that Cayman’s boys team will be competing in the tournament in Nevada. In February 2015, the team traveled there 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 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.
“Our players and coaches are looking forward to returning to Las Vegas for the fourth time,” said program coordinator Neil Murray.
“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.”
The Cayman Islands Youth program consists of 35 of the best players in the Under-17 age group from all clubs in the Cayman Islands. Eighteen players from the program 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 St. 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 program 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, teams from the program 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.
A number of players traveling with this group have 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 program’s players, parents and coaches.