Premier League clubs, FA in joint talks to alter cup competitions - sources
The abolition of weekend FA Cup games, replays and two-legged Capital One Cup semifinals are all being considered as part of joint plans by Premier League clubs and the Football Association, high-ranking sources have told ESPN FC.
The potential changes have been designed with the goal of improving the performance of both English teams in Europe and the England national team.
There is as yet no motion on the table and any changes are likely to be in the medium-to-long term, but the two parties have for the first time come to a consensus that the highly demanding domestic calendar needs to be cut.
FA Cup replays, combined with the fact that England is one of only a few countries with a second domestic cup, mean that Premier League squads often play far more games than their European counterparts.
There is a growing belief among the hierarchies of the top clubs that the highly congested fixture list is affecting the performance of their teams in Europe, and that it is consequently harder for English sides to win the Champions League.
The Premier League's comparatively high injury rate has also been mentioned in talks, sources told ESPN FC.
Clubs have even found that the fixture list has affected transfer negotiations, as some elite players have cited the "intensity" of the relentless English schedule as a major reason why they prefer Real Madrid and Barcelona as destinations.
The FA have often rarely been in complete agreement with Premier League clubs on such issues, but this marks a rare occasion when they have found common ground, if for different reasons.
The English governing body are now increasingly accepting that the country's demanding schedule is leaving its international players fatigued for the summer tournaments, and there is a need to lighten the load.
However, any changes remain some way off in part because agreement would still be needed with other involved parties. Any change to the FA Cup schedule would require a renegotiation of the competition's current broadcasting deals, and the affect on lower-leagues clubs would mean the Football League would also have to approve the changes.
Country cup breakdown
If a Premier League team who is also involved in European competition reached the final of both domestics cups and endured all four available FA Cup replays, they would play 16 games.
Eliminating FA Cup replays and limiting the Capital One Cup to one-legged semifinals would trim a maximum of five games off the slate.
In France, the only other country among Europe's top five leagues to feature two cups, top clubs play 10 games to reach both finals.
Top Spanish teams need nine games to win the Copa del Rey, while German squads play six games to reach the DFB Pokal final, and elite Italian sides only play five games at the most in the Coppa Italia.