Premier League 2: Competition format explained

By 14 Jun 2022
PL2 Trophy with Man City ribbons close-up from below

Under-21 competition's focus on technicality, physicaility and intensity gives a taste of the first-team experience

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Premier League 2 is a competition that forms an essential part of the suite of competitive experiences available to players in the Professional Development Phase (PDP), from Under-17 to Under-21.  

These competitions are designed to offer talented young players an experience that closely replicates the first-team level and support their preparation for senior football.

Its aim is to expose players to the rigours and challenges of senior football, while retaining a development focus. 

The previous format and competition title dates from 2016/17, before which it was called the Under-21 Premier League.

Players in the competition cannot be older than 21. 

Premier League 2 (PL2) has a new format for the 2023/24 season. Here we explain what has changed and why. 

What was the old format for PL2? 

Last season Premier League 2 comprised the 25 clubs with "Category One" Academies split into two divisions - 14 teams in Division 1 and 11 in Division 2 - with relegation and promotion of two clubs in each division.  

Teams played each other home and away, with the two bottom clubs from Division 1 relegated and the champions of Division 2 going up along with another team determined by a playoff of the teams finishing second to fifth.  

What will be the new format for PL2? 

For the 2023/24 season, there will be only one division made up of clubs with Category One Academies. At present there are 26 such clubs.  

Team Division Team Division
Arsenal PL Man Utd PL
Aston Villa PL Middlesbrough Champ
Blackburn Rovers Champ Newcastle United PL
Brighton PL Norwich Champ
Chelsea PL Nott'm Forest PL
Crystal Palace PL Reading League One
Derby County Champ Southampton Champ
Everton PL Stoke City Champ
Fulham PL Sunderland Champ
Leeds United Champ Spurs PL
Leicester City Champ West Brom Champ
Liverpool PL West Ham United PL
Man City PL Wolves PL

Those teams will be divided into five pots based on performances over the past three seasons.  

Fixtures will be determined by a draw made according to clubs’ positions in the five seeded pots. 

There will be 20 Matchweeks, with each team playing 20 regular-season matches throughout the season.  

Teams will play each club in their own seeding pot once, as well as three to five teams in all other pots either home or away. 

Results (three points for a win and one point for a draw) will generate a table ranking the 26 teams. After the regular season of 20 Matchweeks has completed, the top 16 teams will qualify for a single elimination playoff.  

Teams will be drawn against each other based on their league positions, for example the team finishing first facing the team that finished 16th. These will be one-off elimination matches with the higher-seeded team at home.  

In addition, the teams finishing the regular season in the top 12 will be invited to take part in the next season’s Premier League International Cup competition.  

Why is this change being introduced? 

The change came about after an extensive review of PDP competitions, which sought to enhance the transition of talented Academy players into senior football, and engaged various stakeholders, including football directors, Academy managers, first-team coaches and Academy players.   

The removal of relegation introduces positive jeopardy; it supports clubs making development-first decisions, and minimises the impact of relegation on future groups of U21 players.

Also the experience of playoffs will open up to 16 teams rather than the four in Division 2 of previous seasons. 

The new format will also give teams a greater breadth of fixtures, playing 20 different opponents, compared with only 13 in Division 1 and only 10 in Division 2.  

The single division format also provides greater flexibility to add or decrease the number of fixtures in future seasons, dependent on the number of teams in the league, as well as access to additional development opportunities, including matches against senior teams and international opposition.

Past PL2 champions
Premier League 2 Division 1 winners

2022/23 Manchester City
Manchester City
Manchester City
2018/19 Everton
 Manchester United
2014/15 Manchester United
2013/14 Chelsea
2012/13 Manchester United

Premier League Division 2 winners

2022/23 Southampton
Leeds United
West Ham United
2018/19 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Blackburn Rovers
Swansea City
Derby County
2014/15 Middlesbrough

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