Top Premier League Academy sides turn down EFL Trophy invite

Barnsley and Oxford United fans on Wembley Way last year ahead of the EFL Trophy Final
Barnsley and Oxford United fans on Wembley Way last year ahead of the EFL Trophy Final
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A number of Premier League clubs have decided to opt out of entering their academy sides into the revamped English Football League Trophy, it is understood.

Sixteen top-category clubs were invited to join the 48 clubs from League One and League Two in an attempt to spruce up the competition - formerly known as the Johnstone's Paint Trophy - starting this season.

But of those sides, it is understood London clubs Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham are set to decline the offer.

It is also understood Spurs and Chelsea are concerned about scheduling clashes with international breaks while it is believed Arsenal are happy with the current number of fixtures played by their youth teams.

Manchester United and Liverpool are still thought to be weighing up their options, but the pair are believed to be leaning in favour of not participating while Manchester City have made a decision but are not prepared to make it public.

If all six of the sides decide to pull out it would be a blow for the Football League, who had already attracted criticism from clubs and fans worried about the possible introduction of Premier League B teams into the EFL, with top-flight teams able to field five players older than 21 in any EFL Trophy fixtures.

Everton, Stoke and West Brom have initially said they will take part while it is understood Southampton - who won the competition six years ago - are planning to participate.

The reformatted tournament will eventually see 64 teams split into 16 groups of four, on a north/south regional basis, each containing an invited club; and they will play each other once, with the invited club playing one game at home.

Teams will earn three points for a win and a point for a draw, but if the scores are tied after 90 minutes an extra point will go to the winner of a penalty shoot-out.

The top two from each group will then proceed to a regional knock-out round of 32, with the rounds of 16, eight and four being free draws.

These will all be single ties and will be settled by penalties after 90 minutes, although that may change for the semi-final and Wembley final.

Approval of these changes came at last month's EFL AGM in Portugal but it was far from unanimous, despite an extra £1million coming from the Premier League to more than double the prize fund.

The group stages will start in the last week of August, with the knock-out rounds beginning at the start of December and the final on April 2, 2017.

Premier League Champions Leicester, as well as Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Swansea, West Ham and Sky Bet Championship side Newcastle were all contacted but did not respond when asked if they planned to be involved.

The EFL did not respond to Press Association Sport's request for a comment.