BLACKBURN, ENGLAND - MAY 09: Chelsea players pose with the trophy after victory against Blackburn Rovers during the FA Youth Cup Final 2nd leg match between Blackburn Rovers U18's and Chelsea U18's at Ewood park on May 9, 2012 in Blackburn, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Most of you are probably aware at this point that Chelsea FC will be joining the NextGen tournament for the first time next season. After being running what has been a fairly nice tournament over the past several seasons, NextGen has upped the bar this season by not only expanding, but in recruiting several of the truly elite academies in Europe to join their ranks. Chelsea have been drawn into group 3 for the tournament alongside CSKA Moscow, Ajax, and Molde. Any Chelsea player born on or after 1/1/94 will be eligible to participate, and the club can also include 3 additional players born on or after 1/1/93 in their squad.
Just as a brief primer, the NextGen tournament group stage will consist of 6 games for each team (home/away against every opponent). The top two teams in each group will advance to the knockout rounds as well as the top 4 3rd placed teams based on points. The tournament will then become a series of one legged knockout games with the winner advancing to the next round. The group stage will get underway August 17th, but no dates of any Chelsea games have yet been announced.
Chelsea have made a big effort to get their academy products more competition against better talent recently, often promoting them to the reserves as schoolboys to get them that exposure. This tournament should go a long way towards providing valuable experience, as the Champions League style format against premier competition should be a great way to get these youngsters exposed to a bigger stage at a young age. Whether or not we'll be able to watch any of these games is yet to be announced, but once we are informed we'll be sure to let you know.