SUNDERLAND’S youngsters will come up against top European opposition after the launch of the Premier League’s new Continental competition.
The Premier League International Cup was today unveiled, with the tournament aimed at pitting English Under-21 sides against development teams from abroad.
Sunderland will be involved in the maiden competition, with the Black Cats facing group games on these shores against Everton, Celtic and Villarreal between now and January.
Black Cats academy manager Ged McNamee said: “This is a great opportunity for our players to gain experience against international counterparts.
“It’s another aspect of the learning process and it will be fantastic for the lads to be able to take on European sides.”
Sunderland are in one of four groups in the initial stage of the competition, which also features the likes of European heavyweights PSV Eindhoven, Porto, Benfica and Borussia Monchengladbach.
The two top teams in each group will then proceed to the knock-out stage of the tournament, which will involve single-leg ties, also in England.
Premier League director of youth Ged Roddy said: “When we launched the Elite Player Performance Plan in 2012 we recognised that providing competitive opportunities for the 18-21 age group – against English and international opposition – was a key objective in order to prepare academy players for Premier League football.
“The Premier League International Cup will see some of the best young players in this country able to test themselves in competitive matches against some of most talented young players in Europe.”