EFL Trophy to stand by format despite top clubs' academies pulling out
The Football League is expected to keep its rejuvenation of the EFL Trophy on track by inviting other top academy sides to fill the void left by those likely to turn down the offer.
Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea, among others, are all reportedly planning to reject the chance to field academy sides in the EFL Trophy.
Sixteen category one clubs were invited to join the 48 clubs from League One and League Two in an attempt to spruce up the competition -- formerly known as the Johnstone's Paint Trophy -- starting this season.
Newcastle joined 15 top-flight teams in the initial invitation process but, with five of the Premier League's biggest sides set to decline, the Football League are now reportedly ready to offer their places to other teams who have top-category academy status.
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 Aston Villa and Norwich.
Press Association Sport reported the EFL is hoping to have official responses from the invited clubs by Monday -- although it is believed there is no official deadline in place.
Once all 16 clubs have confirmed their intentions they will go forward with their plans to fill in the empty spaces until the 64 teams for this season's tournament are all in place.
Spurs and Chelsea are concerned about scheduling clashes with international breaks while PA Sport reported Arsenal are happy with the current number of fixtures played by their youth teams.
Everton, Stoke, Swansea and West Brom have initially said they will take part while Southampton -- who won the competition six years ago -- and Sunderland are planning to participate.
But, if all five of the sides expected to pull out are not involved it would be a blow for the English Football League, who had already attracted criticism from clubs and fans worried about the possible introduction of Premier League B teams into the EFL, with top-flight teams able to field five players older than 21 in any EFL Trophy fixtures.
The reformatted tournament will eventually 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 shootout.
The group stages will start in the last week of August, with the knockout rounds beginning at the start of December and the final on April 2, 2017.
The top two from each group will then proceed to a regional knockout round of 32, with the rounds of 16, eight and four being free draws.
These will all be single ties and will be settled by penalties after 90 minutes, although that may change for the semifinal and Wembley final.
It remains unclear whether Premier League Champions Leicester, as well as Manchester City, Middlesbrough, West Ham and Newcastle are willing to be involved -- all were contacted by PA Sport but did not respond when asked if they had made a decision regarding their position on the matter.