Almost 900 players from some of the world’s biggest clubs are arriving in Sheffield in a bid to win the Youdan Trophy.
The success of the competition, which is attracting top-flight clubs from as far away as Japan and South Africa – has even taken the organisers by surprise.
Only eight teams played when the tournament started just three years ago as a way of providing up-and-coming referees with top level match experience.
When this season’s tournament kicks off on Monday there will be 40 teams battling it out.
Clubs from Manchester United to Houston Dynamo, Newcastle United to FC Basel and Everton to Kawaski Frontale are lining up against opposition from as far afield as Iran and United Arab Emirates in an event which will also feature teams from both Sheffield’s clubs, Wednesday and United.
The Trophy takes its name from the man behind the game’s first interclub tournament played just once at Bramall Lane in 1867.
It was sponsored by local entrepreneur Thomas Youdan and won by Hallam FC.
Trophy organisers You-Are-The-Ref.com believe it’s Sheffield position as the city that invented the game that makes the tournament such a big draw for foreign teams.
The Trophy is a showcase of the game’s best new talent via its under 16s and U14s competition.
Fourteen-year-old ‘wonder kid’, Karamoko Dembélé, of Celtic – who is tipped for greatness – returns for the third year. He was spotted and awarded player of the tournament’ in the inaugural year of the competition.
Top class refereeing is still very much part of the tournament. Mark Clattenburg – whose last major game was overseeing the UEFA Euro 2016 final – is the referee for the U16 final.
The event runs from Monday to Friday - July 31 to August 4 - with U16 games at Sheffield Hallam University Sports Park and U14s at the University of Sheffield’s Warminster Road pitches. Spectators are welcome. Day tickets can be purchased each day on the door of each venue for just £3. A weekly ticket is available online only at www.youdantrophy.com giving access to the full five days of football for just £12.
This summer will also see the inaugural Youdan Trophy Development tournament from Friday, August 18 to Monday, August 21st. It is open to all U12 (9V9) or U15 (11v11) clubs. More details: http://youdantrophy.com/development-2017/
* In October 2016 the Government’s Intellectual Property Office granted permission for the Youdan Trophy’s organisers to register the competition’s name as a trademark. The application was opposed by Hallam FC. The club says there is no link between the event and the original tournament held in 1867, and has lodged an appeal against last year’s decision. A new ruling has yet to be made.