Portsmouth celebrate winning the Checkatrade Trophy Final between Portsmouth and Sunderland at Wembley Stadium, London on Sunday 31st March 2019. (Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The youth sides at Liverpool and Manchester United will join the Checkatrade Trophy from next season, the EFL have confirmed in a statement. The competition was rebranded to the Checkatrade Trophy in 2016 from the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy; originally for teams in League One and League Two. However, the new format saw U21 sides from clubs with Category One academies invited to join.

Among Familiar Company

The two sides will be joined in the competition by fellow Premier League sides Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, who have all competed in it before. They form six of the 16 invited teams to join the 48 League One and League Two clubs. The lower sides can field their first teams, rather than a team of U21’s.

In their statement, the EFL said: “Invited teams are selected based on the club’s final league position at the end of the 2018/19 season, with the first 16 with Category One Academy status invited to take part.”

For the 2019/20 edition of the Checkatrade Trophy, the invited teams are:

The Controversial Competition

The idea of having young Premier League sides invited to take part was an idea that many disagreed with when it was announced at the start of the 2016/17 campaign. Sides from League One and League Two felt devalued; that even more onus was being put on top-flight clubs rather than showcasing what lower level football can be like.

Crowds dwindled, with some group stage games even drawing less than 1,000 fans. Teams were even given fines for fielding “weakened” sides and, perhaps most embarrassingly for the EFL, Bradford City changed their goalkeeper after three minutes of a game against Bury in order to comply with the strict rules that League One and Two clubs were faced with.

That controversy is slowly starting to decrease as fans become used to the idea that the EFL will not change its stance on the competition. In fact, the final this year between Portsmouth and Sunderland drew the biggest ever final attendance for the competition in any format as 85,021 flocked to Wembley Stadium. This is as big an indicator as any that fans, while still unhappy with the way they feel as though they’ve been treated, still relish the fact there is a Wembley day out and a piece of silverware at the end of it all.

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