The English Football League Trophy, known for sponsorship purposes as the Papa Johns Trophy, is an annual English association football knockout competition open to all clubs in EFL League One and EFL League Two, with the addition of 16 under-21 teams from Premier League and EFL Championship clubs since the 2016–17 season.[1] It is the 3rd most prestigious knockout competition in English football after the FA Cup and the EFL Cup.

EFL Trophy
Papa John's EFL Trophy.png
Current logo
Organising bodyEnglish Football League
Founded1984; 39 years ago (1984), as the Associate Members' Cup
  • England
  • Wales
Number of teams64
Current championsRotherham United (2nd title)
Most successful club(s)Bristol City (3 titles)
2022–23 EFL Trophy

Launched as the Associate Members' Cup during the 1983–84 season, the competition was renamed the Football League Trophy in 1992 after a reorganization following the formation of the Premier League and again as the current EFL Trophy in 2016 due to The Football League changing name to the English Football League.[1] There had been an earlier but short-lived unrelated eponymous competition which changed name to the Football League Group Cup for one season in 1982–83.

Every season, the competition begins with two sets of draws in August, then runs 16 regional groups, each containing 4 teams and divided between northern and southern sections depending on the clubs' geographic locations. The top two from each group qualify for the knockout stages before the two winners meet in late March or early April in the final at Wembley Stadium. Some Midlands and East Anglian clubs fluctuate between the north and south each season for every draw. Other details have varied over the years, including in some years inviting clubs from the semi-professional National League, and holding a round-robin group stage prior to moving into knockout rounds.

The current champions are Rotherham United, who beat Sutton United 4–2 in the 2022 final after extra time.[2] The most successful club is Bristol City, who have lifted the trophy three times, in 1986, 2003 and 2015, and were finalists in 1987 and 2000.


A similar but distinct competition of the same name existed until it changed name to the Football League Group Cup, which took place for the final time in the 1982–83 season.[3][4] Launched as the Associate Members' Cup in the 1983–84 season, it rebranded as the Football League Trophy in 1992, coinciding with a reorganization following the decision of the First Division clubs at the time to break away and form the Premier League. The Football League became responsible for the remaining three professional divisions.[5]

The competition rebranded again in 2016 to the current EFL Trophy due to The Football League rebranding as the English Football League.[6] The first season under the new name saw 16 Category One academies of Premier League and EFL Championship clubs join the competition, a move which has been criticized for attempting to insert Premier League 'B' or academy U-21 teams into the English football pyramid.[7]


Current formatEdit

64 teams enter from Round One, including all 48 teams from League One and League Two, along with 16 category 1 Premier League and EFL Championship academy/under-21 sides. The competition now features 16 regional groups of four teams (with eight groups in each of Northern and Southern sections), with the top two from each group progressing to the knockout stages, the first two rounds of which remain regionalised before an open draw from the quarter-finals onwards.[8]

During the group phase, if the scores are level at the end of the match, then penalties are taken immediately without recourse to extra time. The winning team is awarded 2 points and the losing team 1 point.[8]

Similarly in the knock-out phase, except the final, if the scores are level at the end of the match the winner is decided by penalties. In the final, if the scores are equal after 90 minutes an extra 30 minutes are played and if still equal the winner is then decided by penalties.[8]

Previous formatsEdit

On launch, the 48 eligible Third and Fourth Division clubs were split into North and South sections of 24 teams each. The first round had 12 knockout ties in each section, and the second had six. In each section the two second-round losers with the 'narrowest' defeats were reprieved, and joined the six other clubs in the regional quarter-finals.[9]

A major change was introduced for the 1985–86 edition, with 8 three-team groups being set up in each of the two sections. Teams played one home and one away game and the group winners proceeded to the regional knockout stages.[10] This format was tweaked the following season, with two teams qualifying from each group, resulting in an additional 'round of 16' knockout stage in each section.[11]

For a number of seasons in the early to mid-1990s, the competition ran with only seven 3-team groups, two teams in each section receiving a bye into the knockout stages.[12] This was owing to League reorganization and the demise of Aldershot and Maidstone United, which resulted in there being fewer than 48 teams in the 3rd and 4th levels.

The group phase was abolished for the 1996–97 edition; instead, 8 teams in each section received a bye to the second round, where they were joined by the 8 winners of the first-round ties.

For the 2000–01 season, 8 Conference Premier sides also played in the tournament, resulting in 12 ties in each of the north/south sections in the first round, with only four teams in each section gaining a bye into the second round. The number of Conference Premier entrants increased to 12 from 2002–03, resulting in 14 first-round ties, and two teams in each regional section gaining a bye into the second round.

Conference teams no longer participated from the 2006–07 tournament onward, and the format reverted to 8 first-round teams in each section, with 8 sides gaining byes to the second round.[13]


The competition has always been contested by all teams at Levels Three and Four of the English football league system.[citation needed] Since the 2016–17 season, sixteen Category One academies have taken part in the competition.[1]

Between 2000–01 and 2005–06 the competition was also open to a certain number of Football Conference sides. These are listed by season below:[14]

Since the addition of the Category One academies in 2016–17, the following sides have competed in the competition:



The final of the EFL Trophy is held at the 90,000-seat Wembley Stadium in London, the English national football stadium. The first final in 1984 was due to be played at the then Wembley Stadium, but owing to damage caused to the pitch during the Horse of the Year Show,[15] it was moved to Boothferry Park in Hull. From 2001 to 2007, during the rebuilding of the former Wembley, the Football League Trophy finals were played at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.[citation needed]


Source: NapIt[20] (Only until 2010)



The overall record attendance for the final is 85,021, set at the Wembley Stadium in 2019 by Portsmouth and Sunderland. The record attendance for the final at the original Wembley Stadium was 80,841, set in the 1988 final between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Burnley.[21] The record attendance for the final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff was 59,024, set in the 2007 final between Bristol Rovers and Doncaster Rovers.[22] The 2020 and 2021 finals were played with no fans present, but clubs raised money for charity by selling supporters virtual tickets.[23]

EFL trophy final attendance records
Stadium Attendance record Year Winner Finalist Result
Wembley Stadium (new) 85,021 2019 Portsmouth Sunderland 2–2 (5–4 pen.)
Millennium Stadium 59,024 2007 Doncaster Rovers Bristol Rovers 3–2 (a.e.t.)
Wembley Stadium (old) 80,841 1988 Wolverhampton Wanderers Burnley 2–0

The highest attendance for any game apart from the final came on 5 February 2013 for the Northern Area final, when Coventry City lost to Crewe Alexandra 3–0 at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry (they later won the away leg 2–0, going down 3–2 on aggregate), in front of a crowd of 31,054.[24]

The lowest attendance in the history of the competition came during the 2018–19 season when just 202 attended a Middlesbrough academy team's 1–0 victory against Burton Albion in November 2018 at Burton's Pirelli Stadium.[25] The low attendance can be attributed to a widespread boycott of the tournament by fans of the third and fourth tier clubs as a result of the competition format changes implemented in 2016–17. 'Category A' Academy teams, also known to fans as 'B teams', from the top level clubs in the Premier League and Championship were introduced to the competition, a change proven unpopular among football fans of the lower tier clubs.[26]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "Premier League trial for the Trophy". English Football League. 10 June 2016. Retrieved 30 September 2018.
  2. ^ Peddy, Chris (3 April 2022). "Papa John's Trophy final: Rotherham twice come from behind to beat Sutton in extra time at Wembley". BBC Sport. Retrieved 4 April 2022.
  3. ^ Bateson, Bill; Sewell, Albert, eds. (1992). News of the World Football Annual 1992–93. London: Invincible Press. p. 211. ISBN 9780855431884.
  4. ^ Ross, James M. (20 December 2007). "Football League Group Cup/Trophy 1982-83". RSSSF. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  5. ^ "English Autoglass Trophy 1991–1992 : Results". Statto. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  6. ^ "FOOTBALL LEAGUE TO BE RE-NAMED THE ENGLISH FOOTBALL LEAGUE". English Football League. 12 November 2015. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  7. ^ "Premier League academy teams to be added to EFL Trophy". BBC Sport. 10 June 2016. Retrieved 1 August 2020.
  8. ^ a b c "Papa John's Trophy Regulations" (PDF). English Football League. Archived from the original on 25 January 2022. Retrieved 25 January 2022.
  9. ^ "1983–84 Southern 2nd Rnd results, with links to other stages –". Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  10. ^ "English Freight Rover Trophy 1985-1986 Northern First Round Group 1". Statto. Archived from the original on 24 October 2014. Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  11. ^ "English Freight Rover Trophy 1986-1987 Southern First Round". Statto. Archived from the original on 24 October 2014. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  12. ^ "English Autoglass Trophy 1993-1994 Northern First Round Group 5". Statto. Archived from the original on 3 March 2009. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  13. ^ "English LDV Vans Trophy 2002-2003 Northern First Round". Statto. Archived from the original on 24 October 2014. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  14. ^ 2004–05 Southern 1st Rnd results, and links to other rounds/seasons – Archived 6 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Harry Redknapp comments on BBC Radio Solent
  16. ^ Cartwright, Phil (3 April 2016). "Barnsley 3–2 Oxford United". BBC Sport. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  17. ^ Scott, Ged (2 April 2017). "Coventry hold on to beat Oxford in EFL Trophy final". BBC Sport. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  18. ^ "Lincoln City lift Checkatrade Trophy after narrow win over Shrewsbury". Guardian. 8 April 2018. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  19. ^ Williams, Adam (31 March 2019). "Checkatrade Trophy final: Portsmouth 2-2 Sunderland (aet, 5-4 on pens)". BBC Sport. Retrieved 1 March 2020.
  20. ^ "Previous Winners Of The Johnstone's Paint Trophy". Previous Winners Of Major Domestic Football Cup Competitions. NapIt. Archived from the original on 6 December 2010. Retrieved 10 June 2011.
  21. ^ "Wolves - A trip down Wembley lane". Express & Star. 25 February 2015. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
  22. ^ Hughes, Ian (1 April 2007). "Bristol Rovers 2-3 Doncaster AET". BBC Sport. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  23. ^ "Finalists' fundraisers a huge success". Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  24. ^ "Coventry 0–3 Crewe". BBC Sport. 2 May 2013. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
  25. ^ "2018/19 EFL Trophy, Group Stage: Burton Albion vs Middlesbrough U21". ESPN. 8 November 2018. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  26. ^ Weatherspoon, Chris (29 March 2019). "Why Portsmouth vs Sunderland is the worst possible EFL Trophy final". Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  27. ^ "EFL Trophy: Checkatrade check in as trophy title sponsor". English Football League. 28 August 2016.
  28. ^ "All you need to know ahead of the Papa Johns Trophy Final". English Football League. 1 April 2021. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  29. ^ "Papa John's becomes Title Sponsor of the EFL Trophy". English Football League. 28 October 2020. Retrieved 23 November 2020.
  1. ^ Since no longer sponsored the competition in 2021, and the 2020 final was delayed by an entire year, the 2019–20 final was actually branded as the 2020 Papa John's Trophy Final
  2. ^ Originally branded as Papa John's Trophy[29] before dropping the apostrophe during the 2021–22 season.

External linksEdit