Discover what is the carabao cup, its history, format, eligibility criteria, prize money, notable moments, and more in this complete guide to the competition.
The Carabao Cup, also known as the English Football League Cup, is a knockout cup competition for professional football clubs in England and Wales. The competition is named after its title sponsor, Carabao Energy Drink, and is currently in its 61st season.
History of the Carabao Cup
The Carabao Cup was first established in 1960 as the Football League Cup, with the aim of providing lower league clubs with a chance to compete against their higher-ranked counterparts. The competition was an instant success, with Aston Villa winning the inaugural cup after beating Rotherham United 3-2.
Over the years, the cup competition has undergone several changes, including the introduction of two-legged semi-finals in 1968 and the inclusion of teams from Scotland in the early 1970s. In 1982, the Football League Cup was renamed the Milk Cup after a sponsorship deal with the Milk Marketing Board, and in 1992, it was renamed the Coca-Cola Cup.
In 2016, Thai energy drink company Carabao signed a three-year deal to become the title sponsor of the competition, and it has been known as the Carabao Cup ever since.
Format of the Carabao Cup
The Carabao Cup is open to all 92 clubs in the Premier League and the English Football League. The competition features seven rounds, including the semi-finals and the final.
The first round of the competition is contested by the 70 teams from the Football League, with the 24 clubs from the Premier League joining in the second round. The draw for each round is conducted randomly, with the first team drawn playing at home.
Each round of the competition is played over one leg, except for the semi-finals, which are played over two legs. In the event of a draw after 90 minutes, the tie goes to extra time and, if necessary, a penalty shootout to determine the winner. The winners of the semi-finals advance to the final, which is played at Wembley Stadium.
Eligibility to Participate in Carabao Cup
To be eligible to participate in the Carabao Cup, a team must be a member of the Premier League or the English Football League. This includes all 20 teams in the Premier League and the 72 teams in the English Football League, which are divided into three divisions: the Championship, League One, and League Two.
The criteria for qualification varies depending on the league in which a team plays. For teams in the Premier League, participation in the Carabao Cup is automatic, and they enter the competition in the second round. For teams in the English Football League, participation is based on their final league position from the previous season.
The previous season’s winners and the teams competing in European competitions are exempt from the early rounds of the competition and enter it at a later stage. The winners of the Carabao Cup automatically qualify for the following season’s UEFA Europa League.
The prize money for the Carabao Cup varies depending on the stage of the competition and the success of the team. The total prize fund for the 2020-21 season was £100,000, with the winners receiving £100,000 and the runners-up receiving £50,000.
The prize money is distributed evenly among the teams that reach each round of the competition, with the exception of the semi-finals, where the winners receive a larger share of the prize fund. In addition to the prize money, teams also receive a share of the revenue generated from ticket sales and television rights.
When compared to other cup competitions in England, the Carabao Cup offers a lower prize fund than the FA Cup. The total prize fund for the FA Cup for the 2020-21 season was £15.9 million, with the winners receiving £3.6 million. However, the Carabao Cup offers a chance for lower-league teams to compete against higher-ranked opposition and potentially win a major trophy, which is a significant achievement regardless of the prize money.