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Gunners are the new name among 16 invited Category 1 academies for 2018-19

18 June 2018

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After hosting Tottenham Hotspur in last season’s Checkatrade Trophy group stages, the Hatters could come up against their north London rivals Arsenal in next year’s competition – with the Gunners’ Under-21s confirmed today as the latest Academy side to sign up as one of the 16 invited teams for 2018-19.

The young Gunners side – managed by recently-retired Germany defender Per Mertesacker – will join U21 teams from Premier League rivals including Spurs, Manchester City and Chelsea in next year’s competition, which will continue in its current format with the country’s leading Category One Academies looking to take on professionals, young and old, from the 48 League One and League Two Clubs.

Nathan Jones’ Hatters drew 2-2 in an entertaining game with Spurs last August (see highlights below), taking a bonus point by winning the penalty shoot-out that follow a drawn game in the Trophy.

After qualifying from a group that also included Barnet and AFC Wimbledon, they then beat another invited team from the top flight – West Ham – 4-0 in early December to reach the third round, where Peterborough brought the run to an end.

The full list of invited clubs who will feature in the Round One Group Stage draw, which will take place in July, is below.

The invited teams were selected based on their final league position at the end of the 2017/18 season. The first 16 were invited to take part, and then subsequent teams – with Category One Academy status – invited as required.

The first round of fixtures are scheduled to take place week commencing Monday 3 September, with a number of minor rule changes including EFL Clubs now being given the opportunity to name players who are out on-loan at National League Clubs, whilst invited teams will only be able to name two players who are over the age of 21 and have made more than 40 First Team appearances.

The 16 invited clubs are…


Newcastle United

Brighton & Hove Albion



Stoke City


Swansea City


Tottenham Hotspur

Leicester City

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Manchester City

West Ham United


West Bromwich Albion


EFL Chief Executive, Shaun Harvey, said: “Feedback from all levels of the game is indicating that the competition is starting to reap the benefits that we all envisaged at the outset of the revamp and I’m confident the format will continue to prosper with increasing support from Clubs and their fans.

“The Checkatrade Trophy will continue to provide young players, from Invited teams and EFL Clubs alike, with a unique opportunity to experience first team football and I look forward to seeing the stars of 2018/19 emerge as the competition progresses.  

“Last season, we had the success of Lincoln City, who stated from the outset that the Checkatrade Trophy is a competition that they wanted to win. I was delighted for the Club’s fans when they made it to Wembley for the first time in their history. Of equal significance, will have been the financial return the Club achieved from the competition of over £500,000.

“The 48 EFL Clubs from League One and Two all received a financial boost from the 2017/18 competition and I am confident the increasing profile, as evidenced once again by the inclusion of yet another of English football’s biggest names, will help to encourage more fans to get behind their team in this unique competition format.”


2018/19 Competition Format

Key dates

  • Group Stage fixture draw in July;
  • First Group Stage matches are currently scheduled to take place w/c 3rd September.

Group stages

  • 16 groups of four teams;
  • Each group to contain one invited team;
  • Groups formed to minimise overall travel for EFL clubs and fans;
  • Invited under 21 teams to play all Group games away;
  • Clubs will be awarded three points for a win, one point for a draw;
  • In the event of a drawn game after 90 minutes, a penalty shootout will be held with the victorious team gaining an extra point.
  • Top two clubs qualify from each Group.

Knock-out rounds

  • Round Two will remain regionalised with Group winners at home against a second placed team from a different qualifying Group;
  • Round Three will remain regionalised;
  • Quarter-Finals will be drawn without geographical restriction (no regionalisation);
  • If scores are level after 90 minutes, all knock-out rounds will be decided by penalties except for the Final, which will have extra-time and then penalties.

Player Eligibility

For EFL Clubs

  • 4 qualifying outfield Players from 10.
  • A Club can play any eligible goalkeeper in the Competition

A qualifying outfield Player will be one who meets any of the following requirements:-

  • Any Player who started the previous or following first team fixture.
  • Any Player who is in the top 10 Players at the Club who have made the most starting appearances in League and Domestic Cup Competitions that season.
  • Any Player with 40 or more First Team appearances in their career.
  • Any Player on loan from a Premier League Club or any EFL Category One Academy Club.

NB. No Player can appear for 2 different teams in the Competition.

For Invited Teams

To meet the criteria for season 2018/19 Invited Teams must comply with the following:-

  • 6 from 11 in the starting line-up at U21 level as at 30th June in the preceding season.
  • Teams may only include 2 players on the team sheet over 21 who have made 40 or more senior appearances (measured as at the 30th June in the preceding Season).

A senior appearance will be defined as having played in a professional first team fixture. A non-playing substitute does not count.

Competition Fund

Each EFL Club to receive a participation fee of £20,000 in addition to the following competition fund:

  • Group Stage £10k for a win and £5k for a draw;
  • Round Two = £20k for a win;
  • Round Three = £40k for a win;
  • Quarter Final = £50k for a win;
  • Runner-up = £50k;
  • Winner = £100k.



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