Manchester United are among several leading English Premier League clubs to reject invitations from the Football League to have their academy sides play in the revamped English Football League Trophy.
United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, and Tottenham Hotspur were missing when the draw for the knockout tournament, which traditionally has just been made up from the 48 clubs involved in English football’s third and fourth tiers, was made on Wednesday.
But Premier League champions Leicester City have agreed that their academy side will take part, with Chelsea also set to have their fledgling players compete in a tournament amid suggestions that Trophy matches would cause fixture clashes for top-flight academy teams, who already had sufficient matches in a season.
In a bid to give a higher profile to the competition, officials announced in June that 16 ‘category one’ academy outfits had been invited to take part.
The new tournament will see 64 teams divided into 16 groups of four, on a north/south regional basis, each group containing one ‘invited’ club.
Then the top two from each group will go forward to a regional knockout round of 32, with the last 16, quarter-finals and semi-finals all open draws ahead of a final at London’s Wembley Stadium on April 2.