Chelsea agree to include academy in plans for EFL Trophy - report
The English Football League's revamping of the EFL Trophy has been given a timely boost as Press Association Sport reported Chelsea are set to change their mind about their participation and have agreed in principle to enter their academy side.
Sixteen teams with category-one status academies have been invited to join the 48 sides from League One and League Two in an attempt to refresh the competition -- formerly known as the Johnstone's Paint Trophy -- for the 2016-17 season.
A number of leading clubs are expected to be missing from Wednesday's draw for the newly introduced group stages, with the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool all leaning towards rejecting the offer.
The draw will take place at 10 a.m., with the academies who have accepted the invitation to be announced by the Football League half an hour earlier.
Recently relegated Newcastle and 15 Premier League clubs with top-grade academies were approached after the EFL announced the changes to the competition last month.
Chelsea were another side who were not believed to be keen on the idea as the original EFL Trophy dates would have clashed with international breaks.
But, due to a workaround in the fixture schedule, Press Association Sport understands the Blues are no longer concerned and have now agreed, in principle, to take part.
The main argument from those campaigning against the move is that it is simply the start of a process to integrate top B-teams into the Football League pyramid -- something Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore says was not the case.
"This is the beginning of the end of B teams -- this is it," he said. "That's the whole point of it, to be honest. We are absolutely consistent on our view about no B teams in the regular Football League.
"Yes, of course we know some of our clubs would like B teams. We look abroad and we see the benefit of B teams. It's just for the English football structure and pyramid, it doesn't work, and so this is it.
"We can console all these worried Football League clubs' supporters. This isn't the thin end of the wedge, this is the block. It's the beginning of the end of it."
The EFL has confirmed those places freed up by initial rejections were offered to other clubs with category one status in the order they finished within the league set-up last season.
That means the five Premier League clubs not invited -- Bournemouth, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Hull and Watford -- will be overlooked in favour of the likes of recently relegated Norwich and Aston Villa.
Everton, Stoke, Swansea and West Brom have initially said they will take part while it is understood Southampton -- who won the competition six years ago -- and Sunderland are planning to participate.
The reformatted tournament will see 64 teams split into 16 groups of four, on a north/south regional basis, each containing an invited club and they will play each other once, with the invited club playing one game at home.
Teams will earn three points for a win and a point for a draw, but if the scores are tied after 90 minutes an extra point will go to the winner of a penalty shoot-out. The group stages will start in the last week of August, with the knock-out rounds beginning at the start of December and the final on April 2, 2017.