The Carling Cup

The Carling Cup football tournament, otherwise known as the Football League Cup, was first introduced in the 1960-61 season as a mid-week floodlit tournament. It was the brainchild of Alan Hardaker, secretary of the Football League from 1957 to 1979. However, many of the top teams declined to take part in this competition in its early years, and only the incentive of automatic entry to the UEFA Cup in 1966 upon winning was able to ensure the participation of top teams.

Carling Cup Format

The Football League Cup works on an elimination basis like the FA Cup; however, unlike the FA club, only 92 clubs can enter – the 20 clubs of the FA Premier League, and the 72 clubs of The Football League. Because the League Cup is seen by some larger clubs as a lower priority than other competitions, some clubs field weaker sides in the competition, or use the competition to give young players valuable big-game experience.

All Football League clubs participate in the first round of the Carling Cup unless they are competing in the UEFA Champions League or the UEFA Cup. Clubs are divided into northern and southern sections with half of the clubs from each seeded. A draw is made to determine whether the seeded club is to play at home or away, and then the club is drawn against an unseeded club from the same section.

The first round format is a single match played with extra time and a penalty shootout if required. Winners progress to the second round where they are joined by all clubs playing in the FA Premier League that are not currently playing in the UEFA Champions League or UEFA Cup. Winners of single matches progress to the next round.

In the third round of the Carling Cup, the second round winners are joined by clubs competing in the UEFA Champions League or UEFA Cup, resulting in a total of 32 clubs. The ties are single matches, with extra time and a penalty shootout if necessary; winners progress to round four which is played using the same game format as previous rounds.

The four quarter final winners compete in the semi-finals which are played over two matches, one at each club’s stadium. The aggregate score is used to determine the winners. If the scores are level at the end of the second match, extra time is played. If the scores are still level at the end of extra time, the team with the most away goals goes through.

A penalty shootout is used to decide the winner if the teams have an equal number of away goals. The final of the Carling Cup is played as a single match at a neutral stadium, with extra time and penalty shoot-outs permitted if the match is drawn.