Southampton Football Club have accepted an invitation to participate in next season’s Checkatrade Trophy.
With their academy possessing Category One status, the Saints took part in the competition, which they won as a League One outfit under the guise of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, and lost on penalties during the knockout stages to Reading.
However, with the run benefiting the careers of young players Sam McQueen and Josh Sims, the club feels the experience for its U-23 players merits participation.
The competition came under intense fire from supporters last season after it changed format to allow the inclusion of Premier League academy sides.
Previously, only teams in the third and fourth tier of English football had been allowed to compete. Protests took several forms, most commonly boycotting matches with a subsequent low attendance.
“I was delighted when EFL clubs collectively backed the competition following a full and comprehensive review of last season’s pilot format, and we can see from the increasing interest from Category One Academies that the Checkatrade Trophy has genuine appeal,” explained EFL Chief Executive, Shaun Harvey.
“The competition provides a unique challenge to young players and seasoned professionals alike.
“I strongly believe players from League One and League Two clubs will look forward to taking on some of the country’s brightest prospects, who will themselves learn a lot from participating in a first-team competition.
“I want to thank EFL clubs and the Category One Academies for their support. I believe the balance of the competition should benefit all sides and will make for some intriguing matches when the group stages get under way in August.”