Arsenal's Under 21s are the latest Academy side to sign up to the Checkatrade Trophy with the 16 invited teams for the 2018/19 campaign confirmed today by the EFL.
The young Gunners side will join Under 21 teams from Premier League rivals Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea in next year's competition, which will continue in its current format with the country's leading Category One Academies looking to take on professionals, young and old, from the 48 League One and League Two Clubs.
The format is designed to give the country's leading young footballers the opportunity to taste first team football, while also providing EFL Clubs with an opportunity to attract new audiences and additional revenue in a competition that has long provided League One and League Two Clubs with a chance of silverware.
Four EFL Clubs will have Under 21 sides involved this time around, with Middlesbrough, Stoke City, Swansea City and West Bromwich Albion featuring in the Round One Group Stage draw, which will take place in July, with the first round of fixtures scheduled to take place week commencing Monday 3 September.
The invited teams were selected based on their final league position at the end of the 2017/18 season. The first 16 were invited to take part, and then subsequent teams – with Category One Academy status – invited as required.
The full list of invited Under 21 sides is as follows:
Arsenal Newcastle United
Brighton & Hove Albion Southampton
Chelsea Stoke City
Everton Swansea City
Fulham Tottenham Hotspur
Leicester City Wolverhampton Wanderers
Manchester City West Ham United
Middlesbrough West Bromwich Albion
EFL Chief Executive, Shaun Harvey, said: “Feedback from all levels of the game is indicating that the competition is starting to reap the benefits that we all envisaged at the outset of the revamp and I'm confident the format will continue to prosper with increasing support from Clubs and their fans.
“The Checkatrade Trophy will continue to provide young players, from Invited teams and EFL Clubs alike, with a unique opportunity to experience first team football and I look forward to seeing the stars of 2018/19 emerge as the competition progresses."