Carabao Cup will use seeding system to keep big clubs apart

Virgil van Dijk – Carabao Cup will use seeding system to keep big clubs apart next season
Carabao Cup holders Liverpool are the first team to win the competition 10 times - Getty Images/Charlotte Wilson

The Carabao Cup has been forced to adopt a new “seeding mechanism” to ease the fixture pile-up caused by the extended Champions League format.

Rankings will ensure Champions League qualifiers do not draw Europa League teams, with third-round EFL Cup fixtures now spread over two weeks to further ease congestion.

The league has left its options open for the fifth round when it becomes clear whether there could be any further clashes with European competition.

The Europa Conference League (European football’s third tier) will affect any round three for the domestic competition as its group stages start at a later date. Unprecedented fixture chaos next season had previously prompted clubs to warn they might be be forced to field their kids in the Carabao Cup.

The expansion of European club competitions and the Club World Cup that triggered the axing of cup replays resulted in a clash with match-weeks earmarked for the third round of the EFL Cup.

This comes against the backdrop of an ongoing row over the scrapping of FA Cup replays. The failure of Premier League clubs to deliver on their long-awaited new £900 million football support system, meanwhile, saw the EFL refuse to scrap two-legged semi-finals in its own premier cup competition, placing further pressure on the calendar.

A glimpse of what may be to come next season was provided five years ago when Liverpool played in the Club World Cup.

Their semi-final with Monterrey clashed with their EFL Cup quarter-final at Aston Villa, forcing them to field their youngest-ever starting line-up in the latter game, which was managed by under-23 boss Neil Critchley.

Criteria for the new seeding system has yet to be clarified but Pep Guardiola was among managers to warn last month over the pressures of the calendar, particularly in the week commencing September 16 and 23.

“Next season, when we play in the Champions League, hopefully we will qualify, it is the same week as the Carabao Cup,” he said. “How are we going to play? Will we play EDS [development squad] in the Carabao Cup?

“After next season, we go to the Club World Cup. We are incredibly happy, a lot of money, incredibly prestigious. But how many days do I give off to the players? It’s unsustainable.”