The 2017 COSAFA Under-17 Championships get under way on Friday with two Group B matches as the best young talent in the region battle it out to be called Southern African kings in this age-group.
Defending champions Namibia will not take part this year, meaning we will have a new champion, with a number of contenders, not least Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
A twist to this year’s tournament has seen a number of the eight coaches pick especially young players as they look to build towards the African Under-17 Championship qualifiers next year, and need their players to still be eligible.
The tournament starts with a double-header at the Stade St Francois Xavier in the Mauritian capital of Port Louis when South Africa take on Mozambique at 12h30 local time (08h30 GMT).
The South Africans are one of those who have selected a young group, but Coach Molefi Ntseki, who led them to the bronze medal in 2016, is confident they can compete.
“We missed out on the 2017 World Cup that will be played in India, but having had a taste of that tournament [in 2015], and what it is like to be involved at that level, we all want to get back there,” Ntseki said.
“Obviously we have to start afresh every year as boys move to the older age-group, but our goal is to develop and enhance the talent that we have to match that standard.”
Mozambique did not compete in the 2016 edition of the COSAFA Under-17 Championships, but are a country renowned for producing excellent young talent.
They come into the tournament as something of an unknown, but can certainly not be ruled out.
The second game on Friday features Zambia against Madagascar, with that kick-off set for 15h30 local time (11h30 GMT).
These sides had contrasting fortunes on the pitch in 2016, but ultimately both went home after the first round.
Zambia won all three of their group matches convincingly but were disqualified after being found guilty of fielding two ineligible players. Madagascar had no such troubles, but exited after three straight defeats.
Zambia beat the Malagasy 3-0 in their final pool match at a game played in Curepipe.
Zambia have taken extra precautions with selecting their squad this year and following on from their massive success at Under-20 level, will be a feared opponent.
Group A this year contains Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Malawi, with those matches to be played on Saturday.
The final of the competition is set for July 30, with the top two sides in each pool advancing to the semifinals.