EFL Trophy

EFL Trophy
Organising body English Football League
Founded 1983 (as the Associate Members' Cup)
Region  England
Number of teams 64
Current champions Lincoln City (1st title)
Most successful club(s) Bristol City (3 titles)
2018–19 EFL Trophy

The EFL Trophy (English Football League Trophy) is an annual English association football knockout competition open to the 48 clubs in EFL League One and EFL League Two, the third and fourth tiers of the English football league system and, since the 2016–17 season, 16 under-21 sides from Premier League and EFL Championship clubs.[1] It is the third most prestigious knockout trophy in English football after the FA Cup and EFL Cup (League Cup).

It began in the 1983–84 season as the Associate Members' Cup, but in 1992, after the lower-division clubs became full members of the Football League, it was renamed the Football League Trophy. The competition replaced the short-lived Football League Group Cup. It was renamed again in 2016, as the EFL Trophy.[1] The competition has been associated with a title sponsor since its second edition: currently, it is known as the Checkatrade Trophy.[2]

The first draws are made in August, then the competition runs as 16 regional groups, each containing four teams. The top two from each group qualify for the knockout stages before the two winners meet in late March or early April in the final at England's national stadium, Wembley. The basic north/south format of the competition has existed since its beginnings, with some Midlands clubs fluctuating between the north and south draws each season. Other details have varied over the years, including in some years inviting clubs from the semi-professional Conference Premier, and holding a round-robin group stage prior to moving into knockout rounds.

The current (2017-18) champions are Lincoln City, who beat Shrewsbury Town 10 in the 2018 final to win the competition for the first time. The most successful club is Bristol City, who have lifted the trophy three times, in 1986, 2003 and 2015, and were finalists in 1987 and 2000.


The competition was inaugurated as the Associate Members' Cup in the 1983–84 season and followed on from the short-lived Football League Group Cup.[3] The competition was renamed the Football League Trophy in 1992. This was in the same year of the reorganisation that followed after Division One broke away to form the Premier League and the Football League became responsible for just the lower three professional divisions.[4]

The competition was renamed again in 2016, becoming the EFL Trophy, coinciding with the Football League rebranding to the English Football League.[5] The first season under the new name saw sixteen Category One academies, of Premier League and Championship clubs, join the competition, a move which has been criticised for attempting to insert Premier League B teams into the English football pyramid.[6]


Current format

64 teams enter from Round One, including all 48 teams from League One and League Two, along with 16 category 1 Premier League and 1 Championship academy/under-21 sides. The competition now features 16 regional groups of four teams (with eight groups in each of Northern and Southern sections), with the top two from each group progressing to the knockout stages, the first two rounds of which remain regionalised before an open draw from the quarter finals onwards.[1][7]

B-Team boycott

Following the introduction of 16 category 1 Premier League and Championship academy sides to the EFL Trophy as of the 2016-17 season, a wide-scale backlash to this move led to a boycotting of matches within the EFL trophy by supporters of League One and League Two clubs, in particular those against academy sides. As a result, this has led to record-breaking low attendances across the country. Notable record low attendances include:

  • The lowest ever attendance at Fratton Park on a Saturday in a competitive fixture (Portsmouth v Northampton Town, Saturday 2 December 2017 - Attendance: 1,780)
  • The lowest ever attendance at Fratton Park post-World War Two in a competitive fixture (Portsmouth v Reading Academy, 4 October 2016 - Attendance: 1,355)
  • The lowest ever attendance at Field Mill post-World War Two in a competitive fixture (Mansfield Town v Everton Academy, 31 October 2017 - Attendance: 964)

Previous formats

In the first year of the tournament, the 48 eligible Third and Fourth Division clubs were split into North and South sections of 24 teams each. The first round had 12 knockout ties in each section, and the second had six. In each section the two second-round losers with the 'narrowest' defeats were reprieved, and joined the six other clubs in the regional quarter-finals.[8]

A major change was introduced for the 1985–86 tournament, with 8 three-team groups being set up in each of the two sections. Teams played one home and one away game and the group winners proceeded to the regional knockout stages.[9] This format was tweaked the following season, with two teams qualifying from each group, resulting in an additional 'round of 16' knockout stage in each section.[10]

For a number of seasons in the early to mid-1990s, the competition ran with only seven three-team groups, two teams in each section receiving a bye into the knockout stages.[11] This was owing to League reorganisation and the demise of Aldershot and Maidstone United, which resulted in there being fewer than 48 teams in the 3rd and 4th levels.

The group phase was abolished for the 1996–97 tournament; instead, 8 teams in each section received a bye to the second round, where they were joined by the 8 winners of the first-round ties.

For the 2000–01 edition, 8 Football Conference sides also played in the tournament, resulting in 12 ties in each of the north/south sections in the first round, with only four teams in each section gaining a bye into the second round. The number of Conference entrants was increased to 12 starting in 2002–03, resulting in 14 first-round ties, and two teams in each regional section gaining a bye into the second round.

Conference teams no longer participated from the 2006–07 tournament onward, and the format reverted to 8 first-round teams in each section, with 8 sides gaining byes to the second round.[12]


The competition has always been contested by all teams at Levels Three and Four of the English football league system. Since the 2016–17 season, sixteen Category One academies have taken part in the competition.[1]

Between 2000–01 and 2005–06 the event was also open to a certain number of Football Conference sides, and these are listed by season below:[13]

Since the addition of the Category One academies, the following sides have competed in the competition:



The EFL Trophy final is held at the 90,000-seat Wembley Stadium in London, the English national football stadium. The first final in 1984 was to have been played at the then Wembley Stadium, but owing to damage caused to the pitch during the Horse of the Year Show, it was moved to Boothferry Park in Hull. From 2001 to 2007, during the rebuilding of the former Wembley, the Football League Trophy finals were played at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.


Source: napit.co.uk[17] (Only until 2010)



The record attendance for the final is 80,841, for the 1988 Final match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Burnley at Wembley.[18] The record attendance at the new Wembley stadium (from 2008) is 74,434 for the 2017 final between Coventry City and Oxford United.

The highest attendance for any game outside of the final came on 5 February 2013 for the Northern Area final, when Coventry City lost to Crewe Alexandra 3–0 at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry (they later won the away leg 2-0, going down 3-2 on aggregate), in front of a crowd of 31,054.[19]

The lowest attendance in the history of the competition came during the revamped 2016-17 season as just 274 attended West Bromwich Albion academy team's 2-0 defeat at home to Gillingham on 8 November 2016.[20] The present downturn is blamed on a boycott of the tournament by many fans as a result of the inclusion of academy teams.



See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 "PREMIER LEAGUE TRIAL FOR THE TROPHY". EFL. 10 June 2016.
  2. "EFL Trophy: Checkatrade check in as trophy title sponsor". English Football League. 28 August 2016.
  3. "English Associate Members Cup 1983–1984 : Results". statto.com. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  4. "English Autoglass Trophy 1991–1992 : Results". statto.com. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  6. "AL3 Statement: New EFL B-Team plans". Against League 3. 10 June 2016.
  7. "Checkatrade Trophy Regulations". English Football League. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  8. 1983–84 Southern 2nd Rnd results, with links to other stages – statto.com
  9. 1985–86 Northern 1st Rnd Group 1 results and table, with links to other groups/stages – statto.com Archived 24 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. 1986–87 Southern 1st Rnd results, with links to other stages – statto.com
  11. 1993–94 Northern 1st Rnd Group 1 results and table, with links to other groups/stages – statto.com
  12. 2002–03 Northern 1st rnd results, with links to other stages, and other seasons – statto.com
  13. 2004–05 Southern 1st Rnd results, and links to other rounds/seasons – statto.com Archived 6 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. Cartwright, Phil (3 April 2016). "Barnsley 3–2 Oxford United". BBC Sport. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  15. Scott, Ged (2 April 2017). "Coventry hold on to beat Oxford in EFL Trophy final". BBC Sport. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  16. "Lincoln City lift Checkatrade Trophy after narrow win over Shrewsbury". Guardian. 8 April 2018. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  17. "Previous Winners Of The Johnstone's Paint Trophy". Previous Winners Of Major Domestic Football Cup Competitions. napit.co.uk. Archived from the original on 6 December 2010. Retrieved 10 June 2011.
  18. "Burnley 0–2 Wolves". Express & Star. 25 February 2015. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
  19. "Coventry 0–3 Crewe". BBC Sport. 2 May 2013. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
  20. Jones, Mark (2016-11-09). ""How hard is it to count to nine?" Gillingham mocked for failing to count fans". mirror. Retrieved 2017-04-02.
  21. "English Johnstone's Paint Trophy : Honours". Statto.com. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  22. "EFL Trophy: Checkatrade check in as trophy title sponsor". English Football League. 4 August 2016.
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