Eighth annual Christchurch tournament draws 1,500 young players

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By Rachel Lilburn

The July school holidays saw 106 teams from New Zealand and Australia make their way to Christchurch for the eighth edition of the Christchurch International Cup.

Fast becoming the premier junior and youth football tournament in New Zealand, it attracts top club and academy teams who compete for silverware in a knockout competition.

Main photo: Players from U-10 to U-15s enjoy football with enthusiastic sideline support. Photo credit: Christchurch International Cup Photo & Video.

Over 12 days of competition, 318 games were played and more than 1,400 goals were scored.

Run by Christchurch United, the tournament is hosted at the United Sports Centre.

With two full-size astro turfs that can be played on in almost any weather, the risk of waterlogged pitches and rain-related disruptions, often plaguing grass fields, was significantly minimised.

The recent addition of two mini-pitches provided additional playing space and warm-up areas, ensuring the tournament ran smoothly.

More than 1,500 players competed in six age groups, from U-10s through to U-15s, with the 2023 tournament spread over 12 days – (July 2-13).

Teams and players gather at the United Sports Complex. Photo credit: Christchurch International Cup Photo & Video.

The tournament was structured into six age groups, each competing over three days. The first two days were dedicated to round-robin matches, while the third day saw teams battling it out in play-offs.

This year the U-14s kicked things off, followed by the U-15s. The middle weekend of the holidays saw the U-10, U-11, U-12s held concurrently, followed by the U-13s.

With 14 more teams than the previous year’s entries, Tournament Director Alastair McLae estimates 1,500 players made the trip to Christchurch, with 5,500 players, management, family and supporters coming into the Christchurch region.

Previous years have seen a limit of 16 teams per age group.

In 2023, an additional turf facility close by was used for some games, meaning additional teams could enter. The u12s had 20 teams competing, and the U13s had a field of 22.

A-League Club Sydney FC bought an U-15 team across, winning their age group. They were the only Australian team this year, with COVID having cut off international entries in the last two editions of the cup.

The United Sports Centre is a purpose-built facility, providing an all-year-round football programme in Christchurch, offering a full pathway for junior players through youth and into to senior football.

2024 will see the addition of a residential programme for ambitious high school-age players being added to the Academy, in partnership with the local high school, St Thomas.

The tournament with a bright future … Photo credit: Christchurch International Cup Photo & Video.

How to enter

Expressions of interest for the 2024 edition of the cup are now open: For more information, go to the Christchurch United website >>>>

Tournament photographs

Many photographs from the tournament are available at the Facebook page for Christchurch International Cup Photo & Video >>>>>

Rachel Lilburn

Rachel Lilburn is Taupo-based and a keen follower of her son’s progress as a junior player. Her feature articles for Friends of Football have included a special feature on Taupo’s McCartney Invitational Tournament, a profile of New Zealand U-17 men’s captain Dylan Gardiner, a World Cup for over-40s and a guideline to sideline behaviour.

READ MORE: Special feature: How a favour turned into a Taupo tournament for 2,000 juniors >>>>

The tournament provides a chance for young players to bond on and off the pitch. Photo credit: Christchurch International Cup Photo & Video.

This story was first published on August 6, 2023.

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