Blackpool and Fleetwood learn EFL Trophy groups

Blackpool boss Gary Bowyer.
Blackpool boss Gary Bowyer.
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Blackpool and Fleetwood have found out who they will be facing in the group stages of the new-look Football League Trophy.

The EFL Trophy this year sees 16 category one academies from Premier League and Championship clubs joining sides from Leagues 1 and 2 in a 64-team competition.

The Seasiders will take on Everton’s academy, Bolton Wanderers and Cheltenham Town in Northern Group A.

The Cod Army on the other hand are set to face Blackburn Rovers’ Under 23s, Carlisle United and Oldham Athletic in Northern Group D.

The competition has courted plenty of controversy with Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United amongst those to have turned down invites.

Premier League Leicester, Chelsea, Southampton, West Ham United, Stoke City, Everton, Swansea City, West Bromwich Albion, Sunderland and Middlesbrough are joined by Championship Norwich City, Brighton, Derby, Wolves, Blackburn and Reading.

Academy sides must have six of the starting 11 be under 21 as of June 30 with no stated restrictions on nationality.

The top two sides in each group will then go into a 32-team knockout stage with the final taking place on April 2.

Increased prize money is on offer with an expected £1.95m being up for grabs including £10,000 per win and £5,000 per draw during the group stage and £100,000 for the eventual winner.

Other initiatives to shake up the competition include penalty shoot-outs for an extra point if group stage games end in a draw.