Lion City Sailors launch league for Singapore's top youth teams

The country's best youth football teams will now have more opportunities to play each other with the launch of the Puma Youth Champions League (YCL).

The initiative was announced by Singapore Premier League champions Lion City Sailors on Thursday (Aug 18) and is part of a bid to raise footballing standards here.

The inaugural edition will run from September to May 2023 and will feature the nation's top youth teams across six age groups, from Under-10 through to U-16.

Organisers will invite teams to enter based on standards, performances and results in local youth leagues over the past few years. Youth sides from Turf City Football Club, Anza Soccer, Singapore Sports School and Sport Singapore's ActiveSG programme are likely to be among those participating.

The selection process will be fine-tuned in the future, as the tournament and its participating teams develop.

Each age-group category will have six teams and the YCL will be played across two seasons: the first from September to December and the second from February to May. A champion of each age group will be crowned at the end of each season.

John Morris, the Sailors' head of commercial and tournament director of the YCL, believes the competition will be beneficial for the local football fraternity.

He said: "The club's new training facility (at Mattar Road) will allow us to more efficiently implement our holistic training programme, but it is equally important that we provide our trainees with age-group appropriate high-level competition regularly so they have the best possible conditions to develop their game.

"Such tournaments are not available in Singapore, and we're delighted that with support from our partners and sponsors we're able to create the YCL that will bring together Singapore's best youth footballers and in regular high-level competition, to test themselves."

In line with practices by European academies such as 15-time Dutch champions Feyenoord Rotterdam, a partner of the Sailors, age-group specific regulations will be implemented for the tournament.

For example, the U-10 and U-11 competitions will be held in a 7v7 format, while the U-12 category will be contested in an 8v8 format.

Those for the U-13 to U-16 age groups will be staged as 11-a-side competitions.

"This is also a great platform not only for players to perform, but coaches and referees to test (themselves) and progress in their craft," said Razali Saad, programme director of Unleash The Roar!'s School Football Academies.

"If the teams and competition standards remain high, it can have an impact on youth football in the long term and hopefully contribute to the UTR! project."

UTR is the national initiative  to get Singapore to qualify for the 2034 World Cup.