The 2016 COSAFA Under-20 Championships, sponsored by PPC, will be played in South Africa’s North West province from December 7-16. Here is a quick lowdown on the 14 competing nations ahead of Wednesday’s first round draw.
Angola will be hoping to make history when they compete at the 2016 COSAFA Under-20 Championships.
The country have never tasted success in the junior version of the regional championship, this despite some excellent success in the COSAFA Cup senior competition.
They have appeared in four finals though, losing three in a row between 2000 and 2002, and then again in 2011 when they went down 2-1 to Zambia.
Angola have always be known as a fine producer of young talent, many of whom make their way to Portugal and other parts of Europe.
Botswana were hosts of the COSAFA Under-20 Championships in 2010 and 2011 and finished third in the latter tournament after defeating Malawi 1-0 in the play-off match.
It followed a bronze medal as well in 2009, which represents Botswana’s best-ever finishes in the tournament.
They are bound to be a side closely watched in this tournament with a number of promising youngsters hoping to follow on from many in the senior national side who have won contracts at PSL clubs in neighbouring South Africa, the first step to a European career.
The Comoros Islands did not compete at the 2010 or 2011 COSAFA Under-20 Youth Championships, but made a return three years ago in Lesotho.
They made their first appearance at the regional showpiece tournament in 2007 when they exited in the first round and will be hoping to make history this time round by getting themselves through the group stages.
There is no doubt that there has been an improvement in Comoros football at all levels over the past few years and so they can quite rightly have more lofty ambitions than before.
Lesotho’s Under-20 side recently emerged as star performers in the COSAFA region having qualified for the African Youth Championships in 2011, just their second ever appearance at the tournament.
And they did not disgrace themselves at the continental showpiece event in South Africa either, claiming a draw against eventual semi-finalists Mali and losing narrowly to South Africa and Egypt.
They did not make it out of the group stages on home soil three years ago.
Lesotho have made the final of the COSAFA Under-20 Championships before, in 2005, when they lost 1-0 to Madagascar, the closest they have come to claiming the prestigious junior crown.
Malawi finished fourth in the COSAFA Under-20 Championships tournament in Botswana in 2011 having not played in the previous two instalments of the competition, and then did not appear again in 2013.
The country have yet to win the regional showpiece competition, but did reach the final in 2003 when they lost out to Zambia in the decider.
The side made it out of their group five years ago, but lost 4-2 to Angola in the semifinals and were then beaten 1-0 by hosts Botswana in the third-place play-off.
Mauritius will seek a much improved showing when they take part in the 2016 COSAFA Under-20 Championships.
In Botswana in 2011 the side lost all three of their pool matches, conceding 11 goals and scoring none, and three years ago claimed a single point from three games.
They will want to show that this new generation of Under-20 players is made of sterner stuff and give hope for the future of Mauritian football.
Mozambique are still searching for their first-ever COSAFA Under-20 Championships title having been beaten finalists in 2008.
They lost to then hosts South Africa on that occasion but will be hoping to go one better this time round after disappointingly losing out in the first round of the event in the last four installments.
They did narrowly miss out on the semifinals in Botswana in 2011, the hosts just pipping them on goal-difference in a three-team pool that also included Swaziland.
Namibia were in many ways the surprise-package of the 2010 COSAFA Under-20 Championships, making it all the way to the final before losing out to Zambia.
Some of the football that they displayed was simply outstanding and players such as Captain Sydney Urikhob have gone on to play in South Africa’s PSL.
It was their best ever result in the tournament, beating their semi-final showing in 2007, but they could not repeat the feat in the last event held in 2013.
There they managed just five points from a possible nine to finish second in their first round pool behind the powerful South Africans.
Seychelles will be targeting an improved performance in this year’s COSAFA Under-20 Championships after a disappointing showing in the last three events.
They have lost all seven of their matches played between 2010 and 2013, managing just two goals in that time.
It followed their best-ever showing in the competition in 2009, when the islanders beat the more fancied Namibia 4-2 in the group stages, and also ran regional giants South Africa close before going down to a narrow 2-1 loss in their pool match.
South Africa have traditionally been one of the powerhouses in the region in Under-20 football and are the defending champions after claiming the 2013 COSAFA Under-20 Championships in Lesotho.
They have won the competition five times in all, with their first title coming in 2000. They also hosted the tournament for 11 consecutive years between 1999 and 2009.
South Africa have also qualified for the African Youth Championships in Zambia next year.
Swaziland will be hoping to make a big impression at this year’s COSAFA Under-20 Championships having exited the competition in the first round for the last 10 tournaments.
In fact, they have not won a match at the COSAFA Under-20 Championships since 2004, a record they will be desperate to put right this year.
They were in a tough first round pool in 2013 with Zimbabwe and Botswana, losing both those games 2-1 and 2-0 respectively.
Zambia claimed a hat-trick of COSAFA Under-20 Championship titles when they successfully defended their trophy at the 2011 event in Botswana.
They went into the competition as holders after beating South Africa in the 2009 final and Namibia 4-1 in 2010, and never really looked like giving up their mantle as champions in another commanding tournament performance that included a thumping 5-1 victory over their great rivals South Africa.
They have now taken their winning tally to 10 regional titles, far and away the leading side, and were also losing finalists in 2004 and 2006.
They did, however, lose in the first round of the last competition played in 2013.
Zimbabwe will once again be among the favourites for the COSAFA Under-20 Championships having established themselves as a regional powerhouse down the years.
The Young Warriors side has been amongst the most successful teams in the history of the competition with six wins in all, the last coming in 2007 when they beat hosts South Africa 3-0 to record a comprehensive final win.
They reached the semifinals three years ago in Lesotho, but fell on penalties to South Africa and ended the competition in fourth place.