The EFL (English Football League) Cup, otherwise known as the Carabao Cup due to sponsorship, is a knockout competition participated by football clubs from the Premier League, Championship, League One, and League Two.
Held annually, participating teams will compete to advance from each stage, culminating in the final match in the legendary Wembley Stadium.
The majority of the stages are played in the first half of the season, most matches are broadcasted internationally and watched by fans worldwide. On that note, the EFL Cup still receives questions on its significance, and whether or not it can be considered a major trophy.
The question requires an answer that represents different points of view, here is what you need to know about the importance of the EFL Cup:
Can the EFL Cup be considered a major trophy?
There are a few factors that are needed for a trophy to be considered as major, such as barriers to entry/win, historic value, and the legitimacy of the organisers, in which case it should at least be recognized by FIFA.
While it may not be the most prestigious trophy, The EFL Cup is participated by 92 football clubs, it was founded 62 years ago, and organised by the English Football League. Thus, it is safe to say that the EFL Cup can be considered one of the major trophies for English clubs.
Why is the EFL Cup considered a major trophy?
Here are some reasons why the EFL Cup can be considered as a major trophy:
#1 Best of England’s 4 highest football league
The EFL Cup begins every August. There will be 92 clubs from the 4 highest football leagues in England competing in a knockout format consisting of 7 stages.
Due to several factors such as consistency and difficulty, the Premier League is indeed the superior competition to determine the number one club in England, but winning a competition participated by 92 of England’s best clubs is certainly a statement.
Luck may be a factor in knockout formats, but it can only take a club so far. In the end, the statement made when a club wins an EFL Cup final does contribute to the prestige of the trophy.
#2 Path to European football
Up to the 2019-20 season, the winner of the EFL Cup receives qualification to the UEFA Europa League, a second-tier European football competition. From then on, winners still qualified for European football, but only to the third-tier UEFA Conference League.
The changed regulation does reduce the stakes of an EFL Cup final, but it is by no means less interesting. Elite Premier League Clubs such as Manchester City, Liverpool, and Chelsea aim for the Champions League, meaning that it’s not in their interest to qualify for inferior competitions such as Europa League and Conference League.
Conclusively, these clubs are not bothered by the change in regulation, but for lower-ranked clubs, getting to the UEFA Conference League is still an interesting catch.
Clubs will compete for the cup as they fight for a rare chance to qualify for European football, which withholds the importance of the EFL Cup.
#3 One of the 4 major domestic trophies in England
There are 4 major trophies in English football: Premier League, FA Cup, EFL Cup, and the Community Shield. The Community Shield requires a club to win either the Premier League or the FA Cup, which makes it almost impossible for most English clubs.
On the other hand, the Premier League can only be won by 20 clubs in the top tier. For any other clubs outside the Premier League, there are only 2 trophies left for grab.
Even for top clubs, winning the EFL Cup means that they will not go trophyless for the season, and that will always be appreciated by the fans.
You can find out how the FA Cup and the EFL Cup differ here.
Why isn’t the EFL Cup considered a major trophy?
However, there are some reasons why the EFL Cup is not a major trophy as well:
#1 Prizes are not enticing enough
As mentioned above, winners of the EFL Cup will only qualify for the UEFA Conference League. Granted that it is still attractive for lower-ranked sides, it is certainly not as prestigious as a ticket to the UEFA Europa League, where winning means a spot at pot number one of the UEFA Champions League.
In terms of money, EFL Cup winners do not receive much, even for lower-ranked clubs’ standards. Winners bring home £100,000 and runner-ups get just half of the champion’s prize.
#2 History of the cup is less ‘rich’
The EFL Cup is entering its 63rd season. As each season goes by, it is fair to say that the EFL Cup does hold historical value to a certain extent.
However, it is no match for the history of the FA Cup and The Premier League. The Premier League does have its spot as the nation’s first-tier league. On the other hand, the FA Cup was founded almost a century ahead of the EFL Cup. The FA Cup is the oldest running football competition in the world after all.
#3 Large clubs do not really prioritise it
The EFL Cup has little to offer in terms of money, and the UEFA Conference League ticket is simply unattractive for high-rank clubs, who always aim for at least the Europa League. Other than the trophy itself, there is not much for these clubs to gain by winning the EFL Cup.
While the EFL Cup is concluded long before the end of the season, the matches still coincide with the league and European games. As result, clubs do not prioritise EFL matches, which makes it easier for underdogs to advance towards the later stages.
In some cases, clubs opted to rest their key players by deploying their youth squad. While the youth squad of stronger teams often still ends up as favourites, it takes eyes off EFL Cup matches.
How Prestigious is the EFL Cup?
Here are the EFL Cup champions from the past 5 years:
The last 5 EFL Cups were dominated by Manchester City and Liverpool. Only one team outside of the traditional “top 6” have won the trophy in the last 10 years (Swansea City in 2013).
The EFL Cup does not present the most attractive prizes, but it is not the only determinant of the prestige of a competition. It may not be comparable to the prestige of the FA Cup and Premier League, but it is still an achievement to be proud of.
The fact that “top 6” clubs still dominate and only 2 different clubs have won it in the last 5 years shows that the EFL Cup does serve its purpose after all, to determine the best club in England’s top 4 football tiers.
The EFL Cup has everything it takes to be considered a major trophy. Unfortunately, it is overshadowed by the Premier League and FA Cup mainly due to the stakes and historical value.
Regardless, the EFL Cup is still one of the 4 major domestic trophies that an English Club can win.
Combined with the fact that the competition does determine the best of 96 clubs, it is safe to say that the EFL Cup can be considered as a major trophy.
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