Over 50 grassroots footballers from Merseyside will be travelling to the United States to play in one of the biggest youth football events.

The 7 Elite Academy International tournament features over 500 teams from across the world, including players from United Kingdom, Spain, Australia, Canada, and the United States, all showcasing their talent in front of academy scouts and college recruiters.

7 Elite Academy’s Under-14, Under-16 and Under-18s teams, alongside players from AFC Liverpool’s Under-18s team, flew to Las Vegas on January 31 before making the trip to Southern Utah for the start of the tournament. The players have all worked hard to raise funds to attend including a variety of charity work and the Liverpool Santa Dash in December.

7 Elite Academy Tournament- with permission.
2023 7 Elite Academy Tournament in Southern Utah / Credit: 7 Elite Academy

The coaches of 7 Elite academy train and run AFC Liverpool’s Under-18’s team as part of a player pathway programme between the club and the academy. A team from Steven Gerrard’s academy will also participate in the tournament.

Speaking ahead of the trip, academy director, Anthony Godfrey said: “I think in terms of the quality of the tournament and what it gives back to the players, there’s not any tournaments that I’ve seen quite like it.

“For the players that have come from England to go to the US, the experience of being a part of a completely different type of football culture and playing against different teams, different set ups then they’ve come across before is invaluable.”

It is not just about the tournament for the Merseyside locals who travel across the pond, the players will tour professional clubs and colleges in Nevada and learn about the different opportunities available to them, whilst playing challenge matches against local teams and Villareal’s academy in Las Vegas.

“Just because they haven’t got a professional academy or they can’t get into a semi-professional club, they kind of think the game in their mind is dead, there’s nothing else to chase for,” Godfrey said.

“I think for a player who hasn’t got the professional opportunities on the table for them, the US is a fantastic opportunity.

“What we’re about is trying to broaden their horizons on what the game is. You see many professional footballers going abroad now very young and having a really good footballing career, with your Bellingham’s and Sancho’s of the world being the prime examples.”

This will be the sixth year of the tournament put on by 7 Elite and the academy has seen it grow from 55 teams in 2018 to a 400 plus tournament this year.

7 Elite Academy are keen to promote the different pathways that their players can pursue, with the main goal being professional football but also the semi-professional route through feeder club AFC Liverpool. A largely successful route is the US soccer scholarships.

7 Elite Academy Tournament- with permission.
7 Elite Academy players warm up before the tournament

“Because 7 Elite Academy have got a well-established academy in America, we’ve got great relationships, and partnerships with colleges in America which works out really nicely for the players in England and the academy in Liverpool in particular,” said Godfrey.

“We’ve got great relationships with colleges and recruiters out there; the tournament is an unbelievable platform for them to come and see (the players). We try to use our social media platforms for all the right reasons, to get the players all the exposure that they possibly need to get noticed.”

7 Elite Academy is a worldwide grassroots football organisation, running training programmes, education courses and community facilities for thousands of players in Liverpool, the USA and Africa.