Strikers U19 team to compete against some of the best in the world

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This summer, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers’ under-19 team will compete in a tournament in China against several of the best clubs in the world.

The U19 tournament, named the 2016 Weifang Cup, will be contested between:

• Real Madrid (Spain)
• Chivas de Guadalajara (Mexico)
• S.L. Benfica (Portugal)
• Fort Lauderdale Strikers (USA)
• VfL Wolfsburg (Germany)
• China national under-19 team
• Desportivo Brasil (Brazil), and
• Shandong Luneng Taishan F.C. (China)

With the Strikers being the only US representative, the U19 team will have a unique opportunity to compete against many of the youth teams of some of the biggest clubs in world soccer.

The tournament, which runs this summer between July 24 and July 30, is held annually by the Chinese Football Association and Shandong Luneng Taishan F.C. in the city of Weifang, China.

“The Weifang Cup is a fantastic opportunity to expose our kids to the very best world football has to offer, and we are grateful to the Chinese Football Association and to Shandong Luneng for the invitation to take part with no cost to the club,” said Strikers Managing Director Luis Cuccatti. “Five months ago, when we were developing our plans for the youth program, we could never have dreamed that Strikers U-19 would take the same field as Real Madrid, VfL Wolfsburg, or Shandong Luneng. Participation in the tournament reaffirms the Strikers’ place as a global brand and is testament to our lofty player development initiatives and the long-term success of the club.”

SEE MORE: Read chapter 1 of SoccerWarz: Inside America’s soccer feud between MLS, NASL and USL

Strikers U-19 will be led by Olaf Henke, who currently serves the club as head coach of Strikers U-23. Mark Anderson, the all-time leading goal scorer for the Strikers, will assist Henke and serve as a club ambassador on the trip.

Participation in the Weifang Cup represents the latest chapter in the evolving youth development plans of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. In December 2015, the club announced the formation of Strikers U-23, a player development team that will compete in the National Premier Soccer League this year. This news was complemented in February when the Strikers announced a partnership with Fort Lauderdale FC, the official competitive youth soccer program for the City of Fort Lauderdale, and the formation of a youth development pyramid.

The U-19 squad will be comprised largely of local talent, including some first team and U-23 members born on or after January 1, 1997.

In February, the Strikers professional North American Soccer League team team traveled to China for a preseason tour. In addition to playing a number of friendly matches, the club took part in the opening of several Ronaldo Academy locations as well as hosting a tryout for Chinese players.

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