On Friday evening Arsenal play against FC Porto B in their first group stage game of the Premier League International Cup, but what is the competition for?

Most Arsenal fans who take an interest in the youth team will have heard about the Premier League 2, the Premier League u18, and maybe even the UEFA Youth League. But the Gunners start a new competition on Friday for the first time.

So what is it?

The Premier League International Cup has been running since 2014, and is an u23 competition for players across Europe. It’s run by the Premier League, rather than UEFA, but 24 teams from all around the continent take part, ever since the competition was expanded last season. That total is made up of 12 English u23 sides and 12 European Academy teams.

In fact, UEFA tried to prevent the creation of the tournament, forcing the Premier League to make the decision to play all matches in England, even those between two foreign sides. The competition is intended to be focused on developing talent, so there’s no prize money for the winner.

What is the format?

Each team plays three group stage matches, then the group winner and two best second-placed finishers from the six groups progress to the knockout stages. The knockout rounds are one-off matches, with extra time and penalties if required.

Who will Arsenal face?

As you might expect, the Gunners have a bit of a group of death. First up they face the defending champions of the competition, FC Porto B, with the match taking place at Boreham Wood on Friday at 7pm.

Next they play Reading, at the end of November, which should hopefully be the easiest game of the group stage. Finally, it wouldn’t be a European competition with Bayern Munich, so Arsenal play Bayern II in January.

Good luck to the youngsters in their first ever outing in the competition!