Cayman’s talented young footballers have the opportunity to impress scouts from one of England’s biggest clubs at the Cayman Airways Invitational Under-15 Cup this week.
Manchester City, whose Academy side are the favorites for the tournament, which also includes five U.S. Major League Soccer teams, kick off their challenge against D.C. United at the Truman Bodden Stadium at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Their head coach, John Mullin, said the tournament would be a great development opportunity for his team. And he said it would also be a chance for the Manchester City staff to take a look at some of Cayman’s best players.
“It is good for us to look at players in the other teams. We are interested in global recruitment, so it is a good opportunity for the local teams and some of the players in their sides to show what they can do,” he said on the eve of the tournament.
The local side pools together members of Academy Sports Club’s regular youth teams with other players chosen by tournament organizers, the West Bay Sports Foundation.
Coach Paul Byles, who has been preparing the team for the tournament, said the team has played in high-caliber overseas tournaments before, though never in front of a home crowd.
“They are at home and they have their fans and their families and their friends able to see them in that kind of international environment, so I think that’s a really exciting thing for them. It’s also nice for them to be able to play against such high-caliber teams. When we travel, we face similar competition, but there are some really, really good clubs coming up in this May tournament and we’re looking to get exposed to that type of competition.”
The Academy Sports Club is in the opposite half of the draw from Man City and kicks off against Club Deportivo Victoria from Honduras at the Ed Bush Stadium in West Bay on Tuesday. They face the Seattle Sounders of the MLS at the same venue on Friday.
“I’m very excited because it gives us exposure against foreign teams and tests how our country is in terms of international competition,” said Academy team captain Dominic Owens, who will suit up as a center back for the Academy SC Select team.
Matthew Haynes, another defender on the team, said, “It feels very special because it gives us a chance as Cayman to showcase our skills to visiting teams from other countries.”
The left back added, “I’m very excited but nervous at the same time because we are playing against big clubs.”
Cayman Airways, the title sponsor of the event, has been flying in the majority of teams for the tournament.
The Cayman Islands government is also supporting the event with sponsorship from the Ministry of District Administration, Tourism and Transport, as well as the Ministry of Community Affairs, Youth and Sports.
Group play begins at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex at 2 p.m. Tuesday.
Fixtures move to Ed Bush Stadium in West Bay from Wednesday through Saturday and return to Truman Bodden Sports Complex for the third-place playoff and the finals on Sunday.
The full match schedule is available at www.caymanyouthfootballcup.ky.