The EFL Trophy, formerly known as the Football League Trophy or the Checkatrade Trophy due to sponsorship reasons, is a knockout football tournament in England.
Launched in the 1981–82 football season as the Football League Group Cup, it was a replacement for the Anglo-Scottish Cup, which had been discontinued after the withdrawal of Scottish League clubs. It reconstituted as Associate Members’ Cup during the 1983–84 season.
The competition was renamed the Football League Trophy in 1992 after a reorganisation following the formation of the Premier League and again as the current EFL Trophy in 2016 due to The Football League changing its name to the English Football League.
Here are some key details about the EFL Trophy:
- Competition Format: The EFL Trophy is open to teams from League One and League Two, which are the third and fourth tiers of English football, respectively. Under certain conditions, invited teams from Premier League and Championship clubs’ under-21 teams can also participate. The tournament follows a knockout format, starting with a group stage followed by knockout rounds.
- Group Stage: The initial phase of the competition consists of 64 teams divided into 16 groups of four teams each. Each team plays the other teams in their group once, with three points awarded for a win and one point for a draw. In case of a draw after 90 minutes, a penalty shootout takes place, and the winning team earns an additional point.
- Knockout Rounds: The top two teams from each group advance to the knockout stage. The competition progresses through the Round of 32, Round of 16, Quarterfinals, Semifinals, and ultimately culminates in a final match to determine the champion.
- Under-21 Teams: Since the 2016-2017 season, the EFL Trophy has included invited teams from Premier League and Championship clubs’ under-21 sides. These teams are allowed to participate to provide young players with competitive experience against professional senior players.
- Prize: The winner of the EFL Trophy is awarded the trophy and receives prize money. The value of the prize money varies each season.
- History: The competition was first established in the 1983-1984 season as the Associate Members’ Cup before being renamed the Football League Trophy. It underwent various sponsorship changes over the years and was rebranded as the EFL Trophy in 2016.
- Criticisms: The inclusion of under-21 teams from Premier League and Championship clubs has drawn criticism from some fans and lower-league teams. Critics argue that it devalues the competition and prevents smaller clubs from progressing further.
- Previous Winners: Some notable past winners of the EFL Trophy include Bristol City, Wigan Athletic, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Blackpool, Southampton, and recent winners include Tranmere Rovers, Portsmouth, and Sunderland. The current champions are Bolton Wanderers, who beat Plymouth Argyle 4–0 in the 2023 final.The most successful club is Bristol City, who have lifted the trophy three times, in 1986, 2003 and 2015, and were finalists in 1987 and 2000.