EFL Trophy explained
Here is everything you need to know about the EFL Trophy, including how the inclusion of Premier League and Championship academy sides works.
What is the competition?
The EFL Trophy is an annual knockout competition organised by the English Football League.
Who plays in it?
The format of the tournament has changed in recent years, but it is currently contested by 64 teams.
They are comprised of 48 clubs from League One and League Two and, as of the 2016/17 season, 16 invited academy teams from the Premier League and Championship.
How are the academy teams selected?
The academies must be of Category One standard according to the Elite Player Performance Plan and are invited based on their final league position the previous season.
Those invited to play consist of eight northern and eight southern sides.
Should the invitation be rejected, the next-best finishing Premier League 2 side are eligible until the 16-team quota is full.
What is the format?
The 48 EFL clubs are placed into 16 regionalised groups of three, with eight in the northern section and eight in the southern section.
Those groups are pre-determined by the EFL, based on proximity, and the 16 invited academy sides are then randomly drawn into those.
Each side play three games in a round-robin format, with the academy teams playing all of their games away from home.
Three points are awarded for a victory and one for a draw. A draw in the group stage goes straight to a penalty shootout, with a bonus point awarded to the winner.
The top two sides in each group then qualify for the knockout rounds.
Fixtures are determined by a random draw from the second round onwards, although the second and third rounds remain regionalised.
Each of the knockout rounds are contested over one leg, with a penalty shootout deciding the winner in the event of a draw.
When are games played?
Fixtures are scheduled to be played in midweek at monthly intervals, with the first matchday falling in September.
Owing to the busy calendars of certain academy teams, though, fixtures are often rescheduled.
The final is to be played at Wembley on the last Sunday in March.
What are the selection rules?
In a bid to keep the tournament competitive, each EFL club is obliged to start at least four outfield first teamers.
A first-team player is defined as someone who starts either of the matches directly before or after the EFL Trophy fixture in question, a player that has started 40 or more senior matches or a player who has started at least the 10th-most matches for the club that season.
Any EFL club that fails to meet this requirement is fined up to £5,000.
Each academy team, meanwhile, must ensure that at least six of the players on their team sheet were aged under 21 on 30 June of each respective season.
They are also allowed to name two players aged over 21 and with 40 or more first-team appearances.
Who are the current holders?
Portsmouth won the trophy in the 2018/19 season. Kenny Jackett's side drew 2-2 with Sunderland after extra time before winning on penalties.
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