It’s been mooted for around 12 months, but will finally come into place next season. The Premier League will scrap its existing Reserve League format, in favour of a new Under-21 tournament.
The changes are brought in less than two years after the last overhaul of the reserves system, when the league was divided into groups A, B and C, as opposed to the previous North and South divide.
The new league is aimed at Under-21 players only, but a total of four overage players will be allowed in each match day squad, including a maximum of three outfielders and one goalkeeper. The rule is designed at making the matches more even and competitive.
Another key element of the league, is that it will be mostly made up of clubs granted a category one academy licence, although a number of teams who applied for category one, but were refused, will also feature.
The 23 teams confirmed have been divided into two groups of eight, and one group of 7, with the top two from each group advancing to the elite stage in January.
There they’ll be joined by two of the best third-placed teams, and will then do battle for the trophy in a knock out style format. You following?
The full details are yet to be confirmed, but it’s understood the opening groups are as follows:
Arsenal, Blackburn, Bolton, Everton, Norwich, Reading, West Brom and West Ham.
Newcastle, Tottenham, Southampton, Stoke, Manchester United, Watford, Sunderland and Aston Villa.
Fulham, Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool, Middlesbrough, Crystal Palace and Wolves.
The most obvious changes are that there will be no divides, and a quality range of opponents for each team. It’s not yet been made clear, but the Under-16′s and Under-18 leagues are expected to undergo similar changes.
Update: Arsenal have confirmed their participation, with a list of fixtures published on the official site here. The first two games, at home against Blackburn and Bolton, will be played at the Emirates Stadium.