Montreal Impact under-21 team touring France for 10 days

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The Montreal Impact’s European flavor came to the surface again, as the club announced on Thursday its under-21 team would play three friendlies in France beginning on July 27. The Impact U21s will take on Lyon, Saint-Etienne and Servette FC Geneva’s reserve teams.

First-team head coach Marco Schällibaum coached Servette, a Swiss second-tier team, in the 2003-04 season, after he played for the club from 1987 to 1993. Last year, the U21s played Auxerre, Troyes and Stade de Reims’ reserve teams, tying the first two and defeating Stade de Reims.

The team leaves Canada on July 24, returning Aug. 4. Montreal started a new cycle with its U21s in January, and much of the roster is filled with 18- and 19-year-olds.

“Last year, this experience was a turning point in the season for the team as it went on to win 11 consecutive league games, but most of all, it helped the players confidence by seeing where their level truly was,” Impact Academy director Philippe Eullaffroy said in a club release. “This year, the U21s are younger and inexperienced. This international experience will help accelerate their development.”

The Impact consistently schedules high-level games for its oldest youth side, such as the friendly against the Haitian national team on June 22 at Stade Saputo, which Montreal lost 2-0.

Until 2013, the team played in the Canadian Soccer League, but the club opted to schedule friendlies and allow players to take part in MLS Reserve League and the U.S. Soccer Development Academy seasons.

So far, five Impact Academy players have been signed to Homegrown Player contracts, the latest being 20-year-old Zakaria Messoudi. He followed Karl Ouimette, Maxim Tissot, Wandrille Lefèvre and Maxime Crépeau in putting pen to paper.

All but third-string goalkeeper Crépeau and Messoudi have yet to see minutes in Major League Soccer matches. Tissot and Lefèvre have recorded one assist each since joining the first team.