Baggies one of 16 academies to be invited
ALBION'S Under-21s will play in the revamped EFL Cup for English football's third and fourth tiers next season.
The invitation will give the Baggies Academy-reared youngsters the chance to play for a genuine Wembley final and prize money in a competition which has been given an overhaul by Football League bosses.
The Baggies are one of 16 Academies invited to compete next season following a change in format for what had previously been known as the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.
The new-look competition will see 64 clubs beginning in 16 groups of four teams, comprising of at least one club from each of Leagues One and Two, along with one invited team.
The top two teams in each group will then go into a knockout stage that will culminate in a showpiece final at Wembley Stadium on April 2.
The new look competition will also have an enhanced prize fund with nearly £2m up for grabs, including £10,000 per win and £5,000 per draw during the group stage and £100,000 for the eventual winner.
Academy manager Mark Harrison said: "We were enthusiastic about this idea from the outset and I'm pleased we have been invited to compete.
"It's a great opportunity for our boys to go in there and mix it with seasoned professionals at clubs where competitions such as this are a vital part of their season.
"It's a fantastic competition for our boys to tackle League One and Two opposition. There has been a lot of debate about whether Under-21 football is competitive enough and whether it truly prepares young players, mentally and physically, for first team professional football.
"This initiative has got to be a step in the right direction and I welcome it. It will also give our fans the chance to see their young players pitting their wits against tough opposition. Who knows? We might even draw Walsall."
The other 15 clubs with Category One Academies invited to take part are Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Newcastle United, Southampton, Stoke City, Sunderland, Swansea City, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United.
The group stage sees games will be played on w/c 29th August 29, October 3 and November 7.
The Academy teams must field six players under the age of 21 in their starting X1s.