Liverpool U18s boss Barry Lewtas is relishing the opportunity to take his team across the Atlantic this week to compete in the prestigious Dallas Cup.

The FA Youth Cup finalists are taking a mini-break from their domestic league programme to play in one of the most famous tournaments in youth football.

The young Reds, who will get a chance to play at the iconic Cotton Bowl Stadium, have been placed in a group with New York City FC, Tigres UANL of Mexico and Ikapa Sporting FC from South Africa.

Their first game is on Sunday April 14, with the final scheduled for Sunday April 21.

Read on for Lewtas’ thoughts on accepting the invitation to the Dallas Cup and what he hopes the players get out of their 10-day stay in the USA…

On competing in the Dallas Cup…

We are really excited to be travelling over to Dallas. It’s a competition I’ve never been to before and we can’t wait. I’ve spoken to a few coaches who have won the competition and they tell me how good the level of games are, how good the environment is. It’s something different and tournament football does throw up a few different curve balls as well for the boys to deal with, but we are excited.

On it being an invitation-only tournament and his pride at taking a Liverpool team to America…

It’s fantastic and a great honour. There are some big clubs at this tournament so we know we are going to be in for some really tough games and some tough challenges. We are taking a big group of players and we will give them as much exposure as possible. We are out there for 10 days and the games are quite demanding, three group games and all 90 minutes. It’s going to require an input for all of the players who are travelling and that is what probably excites me the most about the tournament.

It’s going to be a squad game, if you like, as nobody is going to be able to play three consecutive games. Every player who is travelling knows they have got to contribute so we will see how we go. It’s a competition we haven’t been to for a while and it does take up quite a bit of the schedule and obviously this is a very busy time for us as well. We just thought with the teams that have been invited to go and the teams we could expose the boys to, it was invaluable. We always want to compete, try to win things and do as well as we can, but we are still trying to develop as well and giving the boys different exposures.

On the challenges of facing teams with different styles of play…

We are in a group with Tigres UANL of Mexico, New York City FC, and Ikapa Sporting FC from South Africa. It’s an opportunity to play against different opposition who we don’t normally play against. We played against Atlanta in the Mercedes Benz Junior Cup at the start of the year and I got to speak to their staff about how youth football is thriving out in the MLS. Whenever you are in these competitions, including the UEFA Youth League, you want to try to avoid local teams and sides you play quite regularly because we want the boys to be served up with something different. Playing against a Mexican team, a side from the MLS and South Africa, it certainly does that for us.

On the importance of tournament football and taking the players out of their comfort zone…

Because we are away with the boys for 10 days there is a lot that goes on off the pitch as well. We have organised quite a few activities and the boys will also be involved in community work out there. You get to see how the boys react and you get to spend a bit more time with them. I know the boys ever so well because I’ve spent a long time with them in the Academy. It’s nice to see how they mix off the pitch as well, so all round you get to see a lot more away from the football as well.

Taking the boys away from home for an extended period of time is something that might be required of them at first-team level in the future with the pre-season tours. So, going to Dallas and spending 10 nights away is an important part of their development. To be fair, they behave ever so well but this was just an opportunity we couldn’t turn down.

On midfielder Matteo Ritaccio returning to the USA as a Liverpool player…

It’s Matteo’s first season here and I think he has done well. He has settled in well and his level of performance I’ve been extremely happy with. It’s nice for him to go over there with us. We obviously play New York City so that will be something which will be exciting for Matteo. I would imagine there will be a little bit of media attention on him over there so it will be nice to see how he deals with that, but it’s exciting for him.

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