Everything You Need to Know about the Carabao Cup 2023

The EFL Cup, known throughout history as the League Cup, is currently called the Carabao Cup due to sponsorship. The competition is an annual event with clubs from England’s four top leagues.

It is one of the three most prestigious top-tier football competitions in England. However, it is widely regarded as the weakest of the three, putting the Premier League and the FA Cup far ahead.

Continue reading and learn more about the competition that is slowly earning its due respect. From the history of the competition to the latest season, learn everything there is to the Carabao Cup.

What Is the Carabao Cup?

The Carabao Cup is one of the top domestic competitions in England. It is among the most prestigious tournaments, but still inferior to the Premier League, FA Cup, and the Championship.

92 teams enter the competition, and the tournament is open to any club from the top four English leagues. Meaning, any club from the Premier League, Championship, League One, and League Two can participate.

While the big clubs used the competition to give their youngsters a chance, it has, over time, become more competitive. Alex Ferguson said that the League Cup trophy is worth having. But, the competition troubled another top manager. Arsen Wenger struggled to seize the trophy during his long Arsenal career. However, at the time, he said that winning the League Cup won’t mean his season was a success as they failed to win any other trophy.

The competition’s name was originally the League Cup. Considering the English Football League are the organisers, another name for the competition is the EFL Cup. In the meantime, with various sponsors came different names. The tournament was among many known as Milk Cup, Coca-Cola Cup, The Rumbelows Cup, etc. However, today, the competition carries the name Carabao Cup.

Its inferior status compared to the other major competitions reflects in the prize pool. Winners of the Carabao Cup only get £100,000. The second place gets half of that and receives £50,000. The amount compared to the £2 million prize for the FA Cup is insignificant and instigates disinterest.

Competition Carabao Cup

History of the Carabao Cup

While the tournament carries the name Carabao Cup from the 2017/18 season, it has a far deeper history. Originally, the idea for the cup came from Stanley Rous. His idea was to have a fall-back competition for teams that dropped from the FA Cup. However, it was Alan Hardaker who bore the idea to fruition.

At the time, many clubs started using floodlights on their stadiums in order to implement evening games into the schedule. Thus, the League Cup was meant to be an exclusively midweek floodlit tournament.

The first winners were Aston Villa in the 1960/61 season with a 3:2 win over Rotherham United. At the time, Aston Villa had a record number of major English trophies. However, after that, the tournament winners were clubs that had never won a major tournament beforehand.

The tournament’s popularity skyrocketed once winners were given a spot in the European competition. With this, many major clubs saw potential in the competition. Tottenham were the first club to earn a place in the Europa League by winning the cup.

Similarly, as the Cup got its European competition pass, they got Wembley as the venue for the finals. This was another incentive for the top clubs to give it their best in the competition. Thus, starting from 1967, the Carabao Cup’s final venue is Wembley.

The Story Behind the Trophy

At the time, the president of the Football League, Joe Ricahrds, commissioned and paid for the original trophy. Aston Villa won and lifted the first trophy, and 60 years later, the trophy is still in use.

At the time, Hardaker said that one day the tournament would be played at Wembley, but not in his lifetime. His prediction was correct, and he would also live to see it, as the first Wembley finals were in 1967, a year before his death.

Recent Winners

In the past ten seasons, Manchester City took the majority of trophies.

YearChampionsRunners-UpFinal Score
2013Swansea CityBradford5:0
2014Manchester CitySunderland3:1
2016Manchester UnitedSouthampton1:1 (3:1 in Penalty Shootout)
2017Manchester CityLiverpool3:2
2018Manchester CityArsenal3:0
2019Manchester CityChelsea0:0 (4:3 in Penalty Shootout)
2020Manchester CityAston villa2:1
2021Manchester CityTottenham1:0
2022LiverpoolChelsea0:0 (11:10 in Penalty Shootout)

Most Winningest Teams

Despite the six championships in the past year, Manchester City still do not hold the record for most Carabao Cup trophies. The top spot is reserved for Liverpool, who have won nine trophies. They were also in the finals on four other occasions but lost. Liverpool won in 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1995, 2001, 2003, 2012, and 2022.

Other than Liverpool, City have a total of eight championships. Aston Villa, Chelsea, and Manchester United have five trophies each. Tottenham and Nottingham have three, and Leicester have three. Arsenal, Norwich, Birmingham City, and Wolves have two.

Format of the Tournament

The tournament starts with 92 teams. All teams are members of the top four leagues in England. After that, the tournament has seven rounds, in a way that only 32 teams remain by the third round.

The tournament usually starts around August and ends around the beginning of March. Thus, this season, the finals are set for the 26th of February. However, not all teams start the competition in the first round. Exceptions include the following:

  • Clubs from the Premier League that are not playing in Europe start from the second round.
  • Clubs from the Premier League playing in Europe start from the third round.

The games are determined by putting all names in a pot and drawn out randomly. The first team is the home team, and the second team is the away team. However, in order to cut down on travel expenses, there are some regional restrictions for the first round only.

After that, the same principle applies, and the pot determines random opponents for the second round without regional restrictions. All games, except for the semi-finals, are a best of one. Meaning, a single win is enough to either advance or drop from the competition.

The semi-finals are the only exception, where a best of two determines the team that advances. Today, in case of a draw, a penalty shootout determines the winner.

Current Champions

Liverpool hold the trophy after beating Chelsea in a penalty shootout to take the record for most EFL cup championships. The road to their ninth Carabao Cup championship was hard despite starting in the third round.

Their first opponent in the competition were Norwich City, who were another Premier League club at the time. The Reds won 3:0 and advanced into the next round, where an easier opponent awaited.

After beating Preston North End 2:0, they were off to play against Leicester in the quarter-finals. This was a tough nut to crack, but Liverpool somehow managed to advance after a draw, by winning 5:4 in a penalty shootout.

Next up, Arsenal. In this two-legged clash, Liverpool won 2:0 on aggregate, and got their place in the finals. Final opponent, Chelsea. After struggles from both sides, the game ended in a draw. After a long penalty shootout, Liverpool finally took their 9th Champions by winning 11:10.

Carabao Cup Today

Nowadays, the tournament has seen quite a few changes from its original form. Primarily, the most important change made is that it no longer gives a Europa League spot. Now, winners of the Carabao cup get a spot in the Europa Conference League playoff.

However, there are some exceptions to when this won’t be the case. If the winner of the cup is in the top four of the Premier League, the team gets an automatic spot in the Champions League. Similarly, if the team finishes in fifth place, they earn a place in the Europa League Group Stage.

With this, the Carabao Cup spot for Europa Conference League goes to the highest-placing team on the table not already in the Champions League or the Europa League. It is most likely the sixth or seventh place.

2023 Carabao Cup

The 63rd season of the League Cup is reaching its apex. This season started on the 2nd of August, and the finals are set for the 26th of February. The finals are traditionally scheduled at Wembley, where Manchester United will play Newcastle United.

United’s road to the finals was seemingly easy. They joined the competition in the third round when they had to face Aston Villa. With a 4:2 win, they advanced into the next round, set to face Burnley. They won the match 2:0 and were in the quarter-finals.

Their quarter-finals game was easy, as they beat Charlton Athletic 3:0. And even in the semi-finals, they had Nottingham Forest, who are well below them in the Premier League. With a 5:0 aggregate score, Manchester United are now in the finals of the Carabao Cup.

On the other hand, Newcastle had a more challenging run to get into the finals. They started in the second round against Tranmere Rovers. With 1:2 in their favour, they barely advanced into the next round.

In the third round, Newcastle had one of their Premier League adversaries, Crystal Palace. After a draw, Newcastle won the penalty shootout, advancing into the next round. Next up was Bournemouth. They won the game with a mere 1:0, but enough to advance.

In the quarterfinals, they beat Leicester 2:0 and reached the semifinals. The semi-finals were their biggest challenge in the competition. However, they won both games, and with a 3:1 aggregate score, Newcastle are finally in the finals of the Carabao Cup.

Will they lift their first-ever League Cup trophy, or will United take it for the sixth time? Regardless of the outcome, we can definitely expect an exceptional game.

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