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Surprise! Tottenham U21s “un-relegated” after shift in Premier League 2 format

We are so back!

Manchester United U21 v Tottenham Hotspur U21: Premier League 2
Nile John celebrates a goal for Spurs’ U21s last season.
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Good news! Tottenham Hotspur’s U21 team is no longer relegated! Alasdair Gold, writing in, reports that Spurs have been spared the indignity of their U21s dropping down a division in competition, a situation that was likely to have knock-on effects on youth development, because the PL2 is shifting to the so-called “Swiss Model.”

The Premier League clubs have voted to scrap the promotion and relegation model in favor of having all 20 league U21 teams compete in a single division. The teams will be divided into five groups based on historical performance in the competition, playing each team in their pot twice plus against five other teams for a total of 20 games, meaning each team will play fewer matches than they have until this season. The top 16 clubs by table position then proceed to a knock-out tournament to determine the league winner.

This is the format that the Champions League will adopt starting in 2024-25, and I think it makes more sense for a developmental league than one with divisions and promotion/relegation. Spurs felt a little hard done by their relegation — they had a lot of injuries last season but still only lost three matches in 2023, and were relegated on the final day of the competition. Dropping down a division, just like at the senior level, can have a significant impact on recruitment and development, and it feels like that’s the wrong approach to take when the goal of the PL2 is to develop Premier League caliber talent. Rather than punishing teams that perform poorly, this new model should allow for player growth, without potentially causing young players to re-evaluate where they’re playing football.

The cynic in me has questions about the Swiss Model for the Champions League as I feel that has more to do with a cash grab than actually developing the league, but I like it at the youth level. It reduces the pressure to win games at all costs to avoid the drop, and gives all Premier League clubs a platform for success and opportunities for improvement as their players grow and develop. Plus it means Spurs are still in the top flight, allowing for perhaps some of their younger stars to come through next season without having to “promote” back to the top level. Mikey Moore and Callum Olusesi, come on down! We are so back.