A new European Under-19 club competition, the UEFA Youth League, will begin in the 2013/14 season to give young players international competition experience at club level.
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UEFA will organise a new Under-19 club competition, the UEFA Youth League, for the 2013/14 season after the UEFA Executive Committee approved the name during its meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Thursday.
The 32 clubs that qualify for the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League group stage will also be given the opportunity to participate in the UEFA Youth League from next season. A 96-game group stage will take place between September and December 2013, with fixtures being played around or on the same dates as the UEFA Champions League at grounds in close proximity to the venues used for those matches, where logistics allow. The eight group winners and eight runners-up from the UEFA Youth League group stage will then participate in a knockout phase, played in single matches, from February 2014 onwards.
The trophy will be named after the UEFA honorary president Lennart Johansson. This format will remain for a second year before a review is held, which also ensures that the UEFA Youth League runs alongside the existing club competition cycle which ends after the 2014/15 campaign.
"We believe the UEFA Youth League is an attractive additional proposition for UEFA Champions League clubs," said UEFA President Michel Platini. "We have now created a competitive opportunity for youth players to be involved in international matches at club level. It allows us to provide a development opportunity and great experience not only for the players, but also for referees, who will be appointed on an international basis.
"Additionally, UEFA will bring its organisational control to these matches, which will mirror closely the UEFA Champions League season. There are benefits for clubs, as they will be able to bridge the gap between their youth and first teams, and enhance their commitment to developing their teams at youth level. Our objective is only driven by a sporting perspective."
The launch of the competition follows a request made three years ago by clubs, and comes after collaboration with the European Club Association (ECA) and other stakeholders. UEFA previously organised a UEFA Under-18 Challenge between the two UEFA Champions League finalists in May 2010.
In June this year, the UEFA Executive Committee approved the format and access list of the new youth club competition, which will initially operate on a two-year trial basis. Subsequently, presentations were made to the UEFA Club Competitions Committee, the clubs participating in the 2012/13 UEFA competitions, and the ECA general assembly. The operational aspects of the new tournament are now being prepared for the Club Competitions Committee in order that regulations are finalised for the Executive Committee's approval in March 2013.