Betting on the Football League (EFL) Cup

EFL CupThe League Cup, formerly sponsored by Capital One and thus better known as the Capital One Cup is widely regarded as the third most important domestic competition in UK football in terms of prestige and importance, behind the league and the FA Cup. In this article we’re going to run you through the basics of how the competition works so you’re ready to bet on it!

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League success is considered the number one priority for clubs with the ultimate goal of competing for the Premiership title and a place in the Champions League, while the FA Cup is considered more important due to its storied history and larger number of participating clubs. While the FA Cup is open to clubs so deep in the FA’s league system that over 700 teams are eligible to participate, the League Cup is only open to teams in the first four divisions, i.e. The Premier League, The Championship, League One and League Two, or the football league proper as they are collectively known.

The League Cup has had a number of sponsors over the years and the branding is more evident than with other domestic competitions. Depending on the age of the person you talk to, they may remember it best as the, Milk Cup, Rumbelows Cup, Littlewoods Cup or perhaps the Coca-Cola Cup; though Carling were the longest running sponsors, having been associated with the competition from 2003 to 2012, before Capital One took over.

League Cup Format

The League Cup is open to the 92 teams of the football league. The first round of the competition is contested by the teams from the Championship and League One and Two over a single tie at the ground of whatever teams are drawn at home and the ties are settled by extra-time and penalty shootouts if necessary. An exception is made for teams competing in the Europa League, who enter the competition in round 3.

The second round sees the introduction of the teams from the Premiership who are not involved in European competition; those that are also enter in round 3. A system of byes is used in the first two rounds to ensure that the inclusion of teams playing in the Champions’ League and Europa League in round 3 leads to a total of 32, where the straight knockout competition begins.

The Cup continues alongside the other competitions during the football season until the semi-finals in January, which are played over two legs, with each team having the opportunity to play at home, and the team with the best aggregate score advancing to the final. If the match is level on aggregate then extra-time and if necessary penalties are used to decide the tie at the end of the second leg.

The final usually take place in late February at Wembley Stadium in late February and is always the first major final of the season. The winners of the Capital One Cup are awarded a place in the Europa League and this is part of the competition’s attraction for teams from the lower divisions, as it represents their only legitimate shot at a place in Europe for the following season.

Team Strength

Although the League Cup is an important competition to teams from the lower divisions, top Premiership sides that are playing in, or challenging for a spot in the Champions’ League tend to take the competition less seriously and are often very cautious about fielding their best players for League Cup games due to the risk of injury or fatigue.

Alex Ferguson has been widely criticised over the years for sending out second rate Manchester United teams in Capital One Cup ties. Although lesser teams are glad of weaker opposition, it leads to a diminished atmosphere at games and less of a sense of achievement when a lower ranked team pulls off a win against a big side.

Although it was against FA rules to deliberately field under strength teams, the enforcement of this rule has waned over the years, and top flight teams now almost overtly use the competition as an opportunity to showcase their young talent and give them some competitive experience.

Media Coverage and Interesting Facts

For many years, the League Cup’s home was on ITV in the UK. Paid subscription broadcaster Sky began showing League Cup games in 1997 and since then, the competition’s coverage is split between ITV and Sky, with the final now being shown on Sky and BBC. Generally, live games are only televised from the third round onwards, when Premiership teams enter the competition.

The final usually takes place in front of a full house (88,000+) at Wembley Stadium, though the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff was used while Wembley was being upgraded. Liverpool are the most successful club in League Cup history with 8 titles, most recently in 2012. Their success in what is not a highly regarded competition among the top teams draws taunts from opposition fans, mostly based on their drought of League and FA Cup success in recent years. The last non-premiership team to win the League Cup was in 1991 when Sheffield Wednesday beat Manchester United in the final.