Premier League Cup: Format explained

West Ham captain Reece Oxford lifts the 2015/16 U21 Premier League Cup

West Ham are defending champions of an U23 cup competition that has changed to the UEFA Champions League format

The Premier League Cup replaces the Under-21 Premier League Cup, which was introduced in 2013/14 to enhance the competitiveness of the Professional Development Phase calendar with knockout football alongside the regular league campaign.

The new competition is a UEFA Champions League style with 32 clubs in the main group stage, replacing the straight knockout in the U21 Premier League Cup. Like Premier League 2, it will be contested between Under-23 teams, with each side allowed three over-age outfield players and a goalkeeper born before 1 January 1993. The format is as follows:

  • Pre-qualifying stage If more than 32 clubs enter the competition then a pre-qualifying knock-out stage will take place between Category 2 clubs to determine who joins Category 1 sides in the Group stage
  • Group stage The tournament will be split into eight groups of four clubs, with each team playing their opposing clubs home and away. The top two teams advance to the knockout stage.
  • Knockout stage The last 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final will all be one-off knockout ties. If the ties are level after 90 minutes, they go to extra-time and then penalties if the teams still can't be separated. 
Southampton beat Blackburn in the 2014/15 U21 PL Cup final
Southampton beat Blackburn in the 2014/15 U21 PL Cup final

West Ham United are the defending champions after beating Hull City in a penalty shoot-out after a 1-1 aggregate draw in the 2015/16 final.

After Djair Parfitt-Williams gave West Ham a 1-0 victory in front of over 10,000 fans in the first leg at the Boleyn Ground, Will Annan levelled the tie in stoppage-time at Hull's KC Stadium, before goalkeeper Raphael Spiegel was the hero for the visiting Hammers.

West Ham’s Premier League Cup success follows the 2014/15 triumph by Southampton, and Reading winning the inaugural competition in 2013/14.

Reading beat Man City to win the inaugural U21 PL Cup
Reading beat Man City to win the inaugural U21 PL Cup

Premier League Cup winners

2015/16 West Ham United
2014/15 Southampton
2013/14 Reading

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