THE Checkatrade Trophy will remain in its current format for the next two years - but with some minor tweaks.

The English Football League revealed this morning that two thirds of clubs voted to keep the competition in a similar arrangement to this season.

Oxford United, however, did not.

Chairman Darryl Eales told the Oxford Mail earlier this week their preferred option was to revert back to the 48-team set-up.

But they were comprehensively out-voted by others, and next season’s 64-team tournament will again feature 16 Category One academy sides.

The main changes to the competition are:

  • The prize fund is increased from £1.95m to £3m – the rise predominantly made up by a payment of £20,000 to each club as a participation fee.
  • Fixtures will be regionalised up to the quarter-final stage, a change from last season when it was round two.
  • A club now has to field four qualifying outfield players rather than five. Clubs can play any goalkeeper.
  • Alternative dates are available for all group stage matches, rather than all being scheduled during international breaks.
  • All Category One teams will play all group matches away - last season they played one at their home ground.
  • There is, however, no change in criteria for the 16 invited teams - they still have to play six players under the age of 21 as on June 30.

A statement from EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey welcomed the support of the competition.

He said: “The history of the EFL Trophy is one of new ideas and innovation, but at its heart has always been the belief that this is an opportunity for League One and League Two clubs to taste cup success.

“I am therefore delighted to see the backing the Checkatrade Trophy has received from our clubs for the next two seasons, following a full and comprehensive review of this year’s pilot format.

“We wanted to ensure that League One and League Two Clubs had the opportunity to make the key decisions regarding where we take the competition in 2017/18 and beyond and I believe we have reached a revised format that benefits all parties.

“EFL Clubs will have greater flexibility with regard to team selection, while still maintaining the principle that this is a first team competition for our clubs that will support the development and progression of young players.

“The competition will also provide significant financial rewards for all EFL Clubs, which increases with success.”