The Cayman U-15 national football team is gearing up for some high-level competition this week.

Several top academies are converging on the Cayman Islands Tuesday through Sunday for the 2017 Cayman Airways Invitational Youth Football Cup, and the hosts are ready to take on the best the world has to offer.

“The boys are ready and raring to go,” said Bruce Sigsworth, coach of the Cayman U-15 national team, which will play its first game on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. against IMG Academy from Miami. “They’re very excited and looking forward to putting all their training into a game situation. It’s a challenge to us both as players and as coaches.”

Top youth soccer teams are coming from England, the United States and the Caribbean to be a part of the tournament, which kicks off with an opening ceremony at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex.

The academy team for Manchester City of England’s Premier League won the competition last season and will be back to defend its title.

Two academy teams from Major League Soccer – D.C. United and Houston Dynamo – will be back for the second straight year, and so will IMG Academy. The Cayman youth team will also get to watch powerful teams hailing from Caribbean neighbors Cuba, the Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago.

Sigsworth said 10 players from his team got to play in last year’s competition, but they were playing one year older than their age group. This group, he said, has been training together for four years.

“We haven’t had a lot of funding or experience, but we’ve been training for this for four years,” said Sigsworth. “It’s the lack of experience and exposure, and also the pressure of being the hosts, but I think we’ll be up for it. We’re the home team and our country is looking forward to us representing them.”

While the games kick off at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex, there’s also a group playing at Cayman Brac Sports Field. Four teams – Bahamas Tottenham Hotspur SC, Harbour View FC of Jamaica, La Ceiba FC of Honduras and the Cuban national team – will contest on the Brac.

The Cayman U-15 team will be in a pool with IMG Academy, Cavalier Soccer Club from Jamaica and first-time participant Alchemy Soccer Club from Minnesota. The final bracket will have Manchester City, D.C. United, the Houston Dynamo and the youth national team from Trinidad and Tobago.

Russell Latapy, coach of the Trinidad and Tobago youth team, said in a statement:

“I think it’s an excellent initiative by the organizers in the Cayman Islands to have such an international youth tournament with such quality teams. As head coach of the Trinidad and Tobago team, I am definitely looking forward to the matches and I am certain my players will also be very eager to step onto the playing field and give of their best and soak up the entire experience as we look ahead to our international assignments later down the road.”

For a full schedule of the matches, visit www.caymanyouthfootballcup.ky/matches. For more information, visit www.caymanyouthfootballcup.ky.

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