A number of Premier League clubs will have their Under 21 teams included in the Football League trophy this season for the first time.
Premier League clubs have long complained about a lack of real competition within the U21 Premier League, and this move will pit 16 Premier League academies against seasoned Football League professionals for the first team.
It was suggested last season that some Premier League clubs could have their U21 teams inserted into the Football League pyramid as a ‘B team’ as they do in Spain and Germany – although this plan has been shelved.
The first 16 clubs with Category One Academies that have been invited to take part in the EFL Trophy 2016/17 are Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Newcastle United, Southampton, Stoke City, Sunderland, Swansea City, Tottenham Hotspur, West Bromwich Albion and West Ham United.
EFL Chief Executive, Shaun Harvey said:
The new format is intended to rejuvenate this competition and also assist the development of the very best young players in English football. This will help us deliver more and better home grown players which will deliver benefits to the national team and domestic league football at all levels.
I believe this is the right time to pilot these changes to the EFL Trophy, which we will review at the end of the 2016/17 season following discussions with our clubs and having consulted with the other football bodies and supporter organisations.
- 48 clubs from League One and League Two
- 16 invited academy teams (listed above)
- 16 groups of 4 teams separated into regionalised groups.
- Groups consist of 1 invited academy team, plus three senior teams from Leagues 1 and 2.
- Each team will play each other once
- Top 2 teams progress to knockout phase
- Last 32 will remain regionalised, with top place teams playing second placed teams.
- Last 16, quarters and semi finals will be free draw with the final at Wembley Stadium in April 2017.
This is a fantastic opportunity for Premier League academies to introduce their young stars to competetive football against Professional footballers and may help to develop some young stars of the future at the club, rather than utilising the loan system.
Championship club Barnsley are the current holders of the EFL trophy, formerly sponsored by Johnstones Paint, after a 3-2 victory over Oxford United back in April, before they were also promoted from League 1 via the playoffs.