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Premier League to overhaul youth set-up

Premier League and Championship clubs will meet next week to approve proposals to revamp the current reserve team set-up with two new competitions for Under-21 and U-18 players.

If the clubs, 17 from the top flight and six from the Championship, agree to the proposals, the Premier League overhaul of youth team football will be brought forward and will kick in this season - a season earlier than planned.

The competitions will be played in two group stages, with the first ending shortly before Christmas and an elite stage and two qualification group tiers played after it, meaning all players will play competitively throughout the season.

The 23 clubs are those who have applied for Category One status for their youth academies under the Premier League's Elite Player Performance Plan.

QPR, Swansea and Wigan are the three top flight clubs who will not feature in this season's competitions, while Middlesbrough and Wolves are among the Championship sides who will take part.

Changing the reserve team set-up is intended to provide a better competitive environment for younger players in which they will play regular, meaningful games against counterparts of a similar standard.

Writing in the Premier League Yearbook, Terry Westley, the former Birmingham and Derby youth academy director, said: "The Barclays Under-18 and Under-21 Premier Leagues have been designed to offer an alternative. The vision is for the best young players to compete against each other.

"A competitive situation, where fans are coming along to watch the next generation of talented young players, is what we must aspire to."

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