The draw for the 2017-18 Checkatrade Trophy was made today, and Tottenham’s under-21 side will be in Group F of the Southern Section. Spurs’ academy boys were drawn with Luton Town, Barnet, and AFC Wimbledon in this, their first ever participation in the trophy.
By now most of you are asking yourself what the hell I’m talking about, so it’s probably best if we do a little explainer for those of you who aren’t familiar with the competition.
Wait, the Checka-what?
The Checkatrade Trophy is also called the EFL Trophy, but like the
Carling Capital One EFL League Cup, it has sponsors. In its early incarnation it was like the League Cup, a single-elimination knock-out tournament, but only for the 48 teams in Leagues One and Two. Beginning in 2016, the tournament format was changed to a group stage + knock-out rounds tournament, and also now includes 16 invited U21 teams from Premier League and Championship clubs with “category one” youth academies for a total of 64 teams.
So Spurs are in this thing?
Well, Spurs’ U21 side is, and this is the first time they’ve been invited to do so.
And they’re playing against full-strength lower-league club sides?
Yep! It’s kind of a neat idea. It gives the U21s an extra, major competition to compete in and also gives them a good challenge against real, actual clubs.
So who are the other U21 clubs participating this year?
Here’s a full list.
- Tottenham Hotspur
- Leicester City
- Stoke City
- West Brom
- Manchester City
- West Ham
- Brighton & Hove Albion
This seems weird.
It is! And it’s not without its critics. Last year was the first in the new format. The BBC notes that while a higher percentage of young English players participated last year than in previous years, the competition was dogged by low attendance, and the lower-league clubs weren’t happy with some of the rules for how they could select the squads that would play in the matches.
This year’s competition features a bigger monetary prize for the winner and more flexibility for clubs with regards to team selection. The organizing committee hopes that these will be seen as improvements.
Who won this crazy thing last year?
Coventry City defeated Oxford United 2-1 in the final.
So, Spurs are totally gonna crush this thing, right?
Unlikely! U21 sides often have extremely talented youngsters that are on the cusp of breaking through into the top flight, but they’re still very early in their careers. In the Checkatrade Trophy, they’ll be going up against grown men in the lower divisions. These are seasoned professionals. But what the Checkatrade Trophy does is allow young players (especially young English players) a chance to test themselves without having to go out on loan.
In last season’s competition, only Swansea City Academy made it as far as the quarterfinals, and they didn’t make it past that stage.
When do the games start?
The first group stage matches begin on Tuesday, August 29. Tottenham will play their first match at Luton Town, with the match time yet to be determined.
Will it be televised?
We have no idea! My guess is that most of the matches probably won’t be on TV, at least until the later stages, but we’ll let you know if any of Spurs’ matches are watchable, or legally streamable.