The EFL has confirmed the Checkatrade Trophy will continue in its current format for the 2017/18 season; a move that was reportedly backed by Fleetwood Town.
It is understood Town were part of the two-thirds of the clubs who voted to keep the current format with 16 invited Premier League and Championship Under-21 sides in the competition.
The EFL’s rationale for including Academy sides last season was that the former Johnstone’s Paint Trophy was stagnating and the overhaul would enable bigger clubs to blood homegrown youngsters in meaningful games.
After a period of consultation in April, League One and League Two representatives were asked to vote on: retain the current format with amendments; revert to a 48-team knockout competition; or abandon the Checkatrade Trophy altogether.
One of the main changes concerns player eligibility as, last season, Fleetwood were fined £5,000 for breaking competition rules after head coach Uwe Rosler changed his starting XI for a tie at Carlisle United, 48 hours after an FA Cup match at Southport.
The rules had demanded that at least five starting players are retained from the previous match.
However, there will more flexibility in terms of team selection with clubs able to play any keeper.
In terms of outfield players, those eligible for selection are: any player that has started the previous or following first team fixture; are in the top 10 players at the club for starting appearances in league and domestic competitions; a player with 40 or more first team appearances in their career; or someone on loan from a Premier League or Category 1 Academy club.
Under those requirements Fleetwood would not have been fined for the team they fielded at Carlisle.
The amendments also include an increased competition fund of £3m with the 16 groups also formed to minimise travel time for clubs and fans.
Matches will also be regionalised until the quarter-final stage.
Checkatrade Trophy – Format
· Invited clubs announced in June;
· Group Stage fixture draw in July;
· First Group Stage matches to take place w/c 28th August.
· 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.
· Two clubs qualify from each Group.
· 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.
For EFL Clubs:
· A Club can play any goalkeeper in the competition;
· The revised requirement of Rule 7.3 – ‘4 qualifying outfield Players from 10’.
A qualifying outfield Player would be:
· Any Player that meets the current criteria (excluding Goalkeepers), includes those who:
o Have started the previous or following first team fixture;
o Are in the top 10 players at the club for starting appearances in league and domestic cup competitions for season;
o Have made 40 or more first team appearances in their career;
o Are on loan from either a Premier League or Category 1 Academy Club.
For invited under 21 teams:
· Six from the starting 11 must be under the age of 21 as at 30 June 2017