As it happened!
On the weekend of January 29th, Paris Saint-Germain Academy USA welcomed players, parents, and coaching staff from Paris Saint Germain, Los Angeles, Houston, Phoenix, Miami and Fort Lauderdale academies, across three age groups (U11, U13, and U15) to participate in the first ever Paris Saint-Germain Academy North America Cup.
Taking place at the PSG Academy USA Campus, in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area, the three-day tournament created a professional environment for the players to grow and develop individually and collectively. The North America Cup was also used as a scouting opportunity for players to be seen by the whole coaching staff and Benjamin Houri, Technical Director of Paris Saint-Germain Academy, as they select the team that will represent PSG Academy USA at the PSG Academy World Cup.
The Paris Saint-Germain Academy World Cup is a unique and exclusive tournament hosted in Paris, France, that brings together selected teams from all the countries where Paris Saint-Germain Academy is present, making it one of the top tournaments PSG Academy players can participate in.
Friday: Setting the stage
On Friday, Benjamin Houri led a Coaches Workshop for the coaching staff of the different academies. The workshop was focused on how to create intelligent players through the newest PSG methodology that is currently being used by the club’s Professional Youth Training Center in France.
Benjamin Houri, who traveled from Paris specifically for the event, was able to share some unique insights on strategies and tactics coaches should be using to promote the latest methodology. He also touched upon how it is essential for players to find solutions for themselves on the pitch and understand the reasoning behind it. This helps them become a better and more complete player.
Benjamin Houri mentioned during the talk, “We must ask a lot of questions during training and games so our players understand why a certain decision was the incorrect or correct one. This is our structure, and everything we do at PSG must have a structure.”
He was not the only visitor from Paris Saint-Germain Academy headquarters in Paris. Nadia Benmokhtar, Head of Brand Development of Paris Saint-Germain Academy, also traveled to specifically attend the North America Cup to experience the high-level competition, and meet with the coaches and backroom staff of the academies to discuss growth off the field.
After the coach’s workshop, all the tournament players participated in their development soccer clinic. The clinics were divided by age group and worked on the foundations of the Paris Saint-Germain training program and methodology. The drills and exercises the players went through all replicated game-like situations and focused on keeping possession and finding the open space on offense, and pressuring the ball on defense.
The clinics were truly a priceless experience as the players participated in drills and exercises implemented at the club’s Professional Youth Training Center in Paris.
Saturday: The first day of the tournament!
The Paris Saint-Germain Academy North America Cup kicked off with the opening ceremony. Teams were called up to walk across the Paris Saint-Germain Academy USA Campus stadium in front of the cheering crowd and posed for pictures at the end with the tournament’s official backdrop.
Throughout Saturday, top-level and highly competitive soccer was on show and some early “goal of the tournament” contenders were scored. Benjamin was highly impressed with the level being displayed at all the age groups and was happy to see the Parisian style of play present in all the matches. He said: “A great first day of the tournament so far where I was able to witness the great talent we have at Paris Saint-Germain Academy USA. There are a lot of different types of players that are definitely following PSG’s training program and methodology and are showing it today on the pitch.”
Coaches from Paris Saint-Germain Academy Los Angeles and Houston were extremely pleased with their team’s development and exposure at the tournament. Patrice Filin, Technical Director of PSG Academy LA said “It is great to be here at the first Paris Saint-Germain Academy North America Cup and a great experience for our players to be exposed to different skills and great talent. I am sure the players will come back to LA with a different mindset which was one of our objectives when attending this tournament.” Coach Andres from Houston mentioned “Our kids are learning so much from the other players and coaches in this incredible environment at the tournament. It is a pleasure to be at this first edition tournament and I recommend everyone to come next year!”
Throughout the day, players, siblings, and even parents were able to enjoy the Paris Saint-Germain North America Cup Fanzone. The fanzone included interactive inflatable games like soccer darts and human foosball, a teqball table, for players to master their technique, food trucks, and an official Paris Saint-Germain merchandise booth. The fanzone had a direct influence on the vibrant and positive environment on display throughout the weekend that complemented the professionalism on the field.
Sunday: Championship Sunday
With the main highlight of the tournament about to begin, referees, players, and coaches had a professional walkout on to the fields to the UEFA Champions League Anthem. Once all the teams reached their designated spots and the anthem finished, referees began the coin toss protocol and started the matches.
Demonstrating the competitiveness throughout the tournament, all three finals were decided by penalties! The most dramatic of the three was the U15 final between PSG Academy Phoenix Icardi and PSG Academy Fort Lauderdale Navas. PSG Academy Phoenix Icardi were winning 3-0 at halftime, only for PSG Academy Fort Lauderdale Navas to score three second half goals and send the game to penalties. In the intense penalty shootout, PSG Academy Phoenix Icardi came away with the win and became the inaugural U15 PSG Academy North America Cup Champions.
The U13 final between PSG Academy Miami Neymar and PSG Academy Miami Matuidi also ended 3-3 in regulation and went to a penalty shootout. After saving the previous penalty, the PSG Academy Neymar’s goalkeeper took matters into his own hands and scored the penalty to clinch the inaugural U13 championship title for PSG Academy Miami Neymar!
The U11 final also came down to a dramatic penalty shootout which helped both teams gain experience in high pressure situations. This will now help both teams be more prepared for similar situations in the future. The penalty shoot-out went to the final set with the PSG Academy Motta Miami converting their final penalty to clinch the title.
To finish off a special tournament, the closing ceremony took place where individual awards (Top scorer, Best Player, and Best Goalkeeper) and championship trophies were awarded.
Until next year!
Overall, the first ever Paris Saint-Germain Academy North America Cup was a success in bringing hundreds of PSG Academy players from around the country for a highly competitive tournament. Along with that, players were able to expose themselves to the Academy’s coaching staff and Benjamin Houri to stake their claim for a spot on the PSG Academy USA team that will compete and represent the U.S. in Paris later this year.
The tournament also created great PSG community spirit between players, coaching staff and parents, and represents the amazing growth the PSG Academy network is having in the U.S.
All players competed hard, showed great sportsmanship, and truly demonstrated the Parisian style of play. The Academy would like to congratulate all the players for a fantastic weekend, and thank the parents and coaching staff from all the Academies for making this tournament possible. Eyes are on the 2023 PSG Academy North America Cup that will be bigger and better.
To see the official North America Cup photo gallery, click here.