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Former Man City star recruits players from 'secret Premier League game' for $1 million tournament

Former Man City star recruits players from 'secret Premier League game' for $1 million tournament

A number of Premier League players, led by former Man City star Stephen Ireland, are competing in a $1 million tournament.

A group of former Premier League players are competing in a $1 million tournament in the United States.

Sire FC, led by former Manchester City, Aston Villa and Stoke City midfielder Stephen Ireland, will compete in TST – a 7 vs 7 event taking place between June 5 and June 10 in Cary, North Carolina.

Ireland competed in the inaugural edition of the tournament last year, reaching the quarter-finals with Blade and Grass.

Newton Pride FC were the victors but this year the men's competition, partly owned by Golden State Warriors point-guard Chris Paul, has been expanded to 48 teams.

And Ireland has assembled the avengers as he bids to go all the way this time around.

As well as himself, his team includes Troy Deeney, Ravel Morrison, Tom Huddlestone, Danny Simpson, Oumar Niasse, Keiren Westwood, Bakary Sako and Adrian Mariappa, Giannelli Imbula and Ireland's son Josh, who has played for England at youth level.

Image: Sire 7
Image: Sire 7

Many of the above players play in a ‘secret’ 10-a-side game held every week in the outskirts of Manchester.

“The tournament is fantastic,” he told SPORTbible.

“It’s such a great event. It’s probably the next closest thing to competitiveness and excitement to when I played football.

“It’s just a class week away with some good lads, winning and playing. It’s just a great buzz.

“I reckon I’ll be going every single year because it is a great event and great trip. My team’s good, I’m happy with my team.

“I feel it’s got depth. I learned a lot from last year. I think I’ve got quality throughout the squad and am confident with it.

“I’m reasonably confident. The squad’s good, you need a bit of luck along the way but hopefully we can go to the very later stages.

“We needed a bit more depth in the squad, which I feel I have this year.”

The upcoming event is a star-studded as can be. Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, Borussia Dortmund, Villarreal, Wrexham and Burnley are all participating teams.

In terms of players, Sergio Aguero, Nani, Javier Zanetti, Mario Balotelli, Maicon, Marco Materazzi, Giuseppe Rossi, Michel Bastos, Felipe Santana, Roman Weidenfeller and Bruno Alves are some just of the stars who will be in action.

But the tournament is incredibly hard to call because there are plenty of unknown quantities.

Ireland added: “You just don’t know. I’d like to think we’re up there but there’s teams out there you haven’t heard of.

“There’s Mexican teams, Canadian teams that play all year round. They play seven versus seven as a living and travel the world. Those kind of guys are the dark horses, it’s not necessarily the known guys.

“Every game is difficult, there are no easy games out there.”

The TST tournament boasts a set of rules that are unique to say the least. Games are 40 minutes - with half-time breaks lasting just two minutes.

Seven players, including the goalkeeper, can be on the pitch and substitutions are unlimited at all times.

There are no offsides, throw-ins or slide tackles, but the biggest feature is ‘Target Score Time’ which contributed to Ireland and his team’s quarter final exit a year ago.

After 40 minutes, teams then enter an untimed period whereby the winners must reach a targeted number of goals.

Image: SPORTbible
Image: SPORTbible

The predefined score is always one more than the winning team's tally. If the score is 6-4, the target will be set at seven goals.

One team will then need to score one, with the opposition requiring three. The game finishes when the target score has been achieved. In the event that scores are level, it's essentially ‘next goal wins’.

But if nobody scores within ten minutes of the target score time, one player from each team will be removed every five minutes before it becomes a one-vs-one battle and someone finds the net.

Fitness is seriously tested. Ireland plays football almost every night and many of his teammates have been putting in the work to ensure they are ready for the challenge.

Image: Getty
Image: Getty

“Preparation-wise, I always keep fit and I always play,” he explained.

"I play five or six games every week and train a lot. That’s me in general and I know for a lot of the lads this tournament has been a great incentive to get fit.

“Once they committed to come and play, they’ve all wrapped up their training, nutrition and everything because no-one wants to go over and get exposed.

“Everyone’s looking fit and everyone in my squad has put in the extra work to go out there.

“It’s very fitness based. I’ve been keeping tabs on everybody and we’ve been playing a few games and everything’s looking positive and looking good.”

There aren’t many tournaments where $1 million dollars are on the line but how would a bunch of former Premier League footballers look to spend the prize money if they won?

Though Ireland jokes about a massive trip being on the cards, the cash is not something the team are putting too much focus on.

He admitted: “Ideally the whole squad goes to Vegas and we put it on red! "Honestly I don’t know, I haven’t thought that far because I don’t think we’re going there with the incentive of the money, we’re going there to win and participate, have fun and enjoy it.

“It’s probably a bit of an added bonus, none of us are that bothered about the money part of it.”

Fans can attend the games in person at Wakemed Soccer Park with tickets, while some matches are also streamed on ESPN+

Featured Image Credit: Getty, Sire FC and TST

Topics: Manchester City, Manchester United, Premier League, Ravel Morrison, United States, Spotlight