ACADEMY: Chicago Fire U-13s headed to Italy for Abano Youth Tournament

The Chicago Fire Academy is taking another trip abroad this week as the club’s U-13 selection heads to Venice, Italy to take part in the prestigious Città di Abano Youth Football tournament.

Deemed the top U-13 tournament in Europe, the Fire are the only non-European side taking part in the 16-team competition and are grouped with Italian sides Fiorentina and Atalanta as well as German club Bayer Leverkusen.

The tournament also includes Team for the World Alliance partner Atletico Madrid (Spain), Ajax (Netherlands) and Benfica (Portugal) as well as Italian giants A.C. Milan, Internazionale and Juventus.

“We’re truly honored to be able to take part in the Abano youth tournament,” Academy Director Larry Sunderland told Chicago-Fire.com this week. “We continue to make strides in our youth development and measuring ourselves against some of the best clubs in the world gives us incredible room for growth.”

The trip abroad is the second for the Chicago Fire Academy this year after the U-16 squad took part in the AlKass International Tournament in Qatar back in January.

The club’s Director of Player Development John Dorn spoke about the trip on Saturday’s episode of Fire Weekly and echoed Sunderland about the tournament being a measuring stick.

 “When it comes to the Academy level, we have to check and see where we’re at,” he said. “I think you’re going to see MLS Academies move away from just domestic competition [going forward]. We’re five years into the Academy now and while we feel like we’re doing a good job within the U.S., it’s important to see how we’re stacking up against clubs around the world.”

In order to give teams an opportunity to play a variety of competition, the games at the tournament consist of two 25-minute halves. The Fire will face Fiorentina and Bayer Leverkusen on Thursday before facing Atalanta Friday. Whether or not they make it of their group, the team is guaranteed five matches at the tournament.

Fans can follow the U-13s in Italy @ChiFireAcademy on Twitter. For more information about the competition, please visit http://www.abanofootballtrophy.com.