No Watford clash for Luton in EFL Trophy

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Luton Town’s hopes of an EFL Trophy clash against fierce rivals Watford have been dashed after the EFL confirmed the format of this season’s newlook competition, with the Hornets not included.

The tournament, which was the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, a competition Luton famously won back in 2009, will this term include 16 invited teams from clubs with Category One Academies.

These have now been confirmed as Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Newcastle United, Southampton, Stoke City, Sunderland, Swansea City, Tottenham Hotspur, West Bromwich Albion and West Ham United, with the EFL revealing they must play one home game at the club’s first team stadium.

A total of 64 clubs will compete in the competition beginning with 16 groups of four teams, each of which will include at least one club from Leagues One and Two, along with one invited team. The top two sides in each group will then go into a knockout stage that will culminate in a final at Wembley Stadium on April 2.

There is also an enhanced prize fund of an expected £1.95m, including £10,000 per win and £5,000 per draw during the group stage and £100,000 for the eventual winner.

Hatters will have to select a minimum of five ‘first team’ players in the starting 11 as defined under the competition’s existing rules, while six of the Academies starting 11 must be U21 as at June 30.

The group stages will take place on: w/c August 29, w/c October 3 and w/c November 7, with the top two going through to the knock out stage that will also remain regionalised.

EFL Chief Executive, Shaun Harvey said: “The new format is intended to rejuvenate this competition and also assist the development of the very best young players in English football. This will help us deliver more and better home grown players which will deliver benefits to the national team and domestic league football at all levels.

“I believe this is the right time to pilot these changes to the EFL Trophy, which we will review at the end of the 2016/17 season following discussions with our clubs and having consulted with the other football bodies and supporter organisations.”

A Premier League spokesman added: “The overriding aim of the Elite Player Performance Plan across the Premier League and English Football League is to produce more and better home grown players capable of performing at first team and international levels.

“Participation for a selection of Premier League clubs’ teams to take part in the EFL Trophy is an important part of a range developments that both we and the EFL believe will help young, talented players progress physically and mentally on top of the technical aspect of their game developed in the Academy system.

“It is a progressive move by both leagues; one that we welcome.”

The EFL have also confirmed that after deduction of match expenses, all proceeds will be split, with 45% to the home club, 45% to the away club and 10% to the pool account

Invited clubs will donate all or some of their share of gate receipts to a fund that will be shared equally by League One and Two clubs.

In the group stage, invited clubs will donate their 45% share to the fund, while that will drop to 20% for the knock out stage and 15% for the semi-finals and final.

The date of the draw for the group stage will be announced in due course.