Liverpool will enter an Under-21 team to compete for the EFL Trophy for the first time in 2019/20 season, giving promising talents much-needed competitive action.
Previously, the Reds had never competed for the competition, which is played out between lower-league clubs with the recent addition of elite Academy sides.
Category one academies have been invited to field an U21 team in the competition since 16/17, with the likes of Chelsea doing so last term.
Liverpool and Man United are both entering teams for the first time this coming season, meaning 15 Premier League teams—and Fulham from the Championship—will join 48 League One and Two clubs to make a 64-club competition.
Up until now, any promising starlets at Kirkby have had to either bide their time for competitive football at Liverpool, or else head out on loan.
This move will ensure that several get to feature against seasoned professionals in competitive action, while still remaining at the club in case of need under Jurgen Klopp and to continue being coached by the U23 set-up.
Last season the criteria for selection for U21 teams included the following:
- Minimum of six players in the starting line-up who played at under-21 level [for the club]
- Teams may only include two players on the team sheet, aged over 21, who have made 40 or more senior appearances
That would mean, for example, that Harry Wilson could still feature in the side being aged 22, as he is nowhere near the 40-appearance mark, as long as there were enough under-21s in the side as team-mates.
The EFL Trophy typically begins with a group stage followed by regional knock-out ties, before a fully open knock-out format in the latter stages. The final takes place at Wembley and was won last season by Portsmouth, beating Sunderland on penalties.
In July the young Reds will learn their opponents in the group stage, with the first matches scheduled for early September.