EFL Trophy Group Stage Info 2017
With the announcement of the Category One Academy clubs that had been invited to participate in this year's EFL Trophy yesterday, here are the full details of the competition and draw dates.
With Fulham, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United being new entrants this year, they join Brighton, Chelsea, Everton, Leicester City, Middlesbrough, Reading, Southampton, Stoke City, Sunderland, Swansea City, West Bromwich Albion and West Ham United in the group stage draw.
Speaking to the efl.com as the announcement was made, chief executive Shaun Harvey explained.
'I was delighted when EFL clubs collectively backed the competition following a full and comprehensive review of last season`s pilot format, and we can see from the increasing interest from Category One Academies that the Checkatrade Trophy has genuine appeal. The competition provides a unique challenge to young players and seasoned professionals alike. I strongly believe players from League One and League Two clubs will look forward to taking on some of the country`s brightest prospects, who will themselves learn a lot from participating in a first-team competition. I want to thank EFL clubs and the Category One Academies for their support. I believe the balance of the competition should benefit all sides and will make for some intriguing matches when the group stages get under way in August.'
Format changes to the competition this year has seen the selection criteria amended to allow greater flexibility for League One and Two clubs after criticisms and pointless fines last year, and each Group will continue to have one invited Academy side within it.
The invited under 23 sides must have six players under the age of 21 as of June 30 in each starting line up ahead of games.
Each Group will also be formed to minimise overall travel for clubs and fans.
The invited Academy sides will play all group games away from home and the competition remains regionalised until the Quarter Final stage - up from Round 2 last year.
There will also be greater flexibility in fixture dates to enable teams to play games outside of international weeks.
The initial Group draw for League One and Two sides will be made on Friday July 7 and the 16 invited sides will be allocated to a Group on Wednesday July 12.
The first Group stage matches are scheduled to take place in the week commencing August 28.