The Carabao Cup is the EFL’s showpiece cup competition and is one of the three major honours of the domestic football season.
Beginning each August, it features all Clubs from the EFL and Premier League in a straight knock-out format across seven rounds, with the semi-finals being played over two legs. Premier League clubs enter the competition in Round Two with clubs that have qualified for the Champions League or Europa League joining in Round Three. The competition culminates in a final at Wembley Stadium, with the winner qualifying for the subsequent season’s Europa League.
The Carabao Cup is watched by millions of people at stadiums every season, and many more watch at home on television. In the UK, Carabao Cup matches are broadcast on TV, with matches from each round being shown live, as well as both legs of each Semi-Final and the Final.
The competition was the brainchild of former EFL secretary Alan Hardaker and stemmed from the ‘Pattern for Football’ document which proposed a new structure for the domestic game. Clubs rejected Hardaker’s suggestion of having five divisions of 20 Clubs but kept the additional cup competition that was initially intended to compensate them for playing fewer league matches. The advent of floodlights giving them the opportunity to play more matches in midweek.
Since its inception in 1960/61 the competition has earned itself a reputation for thrilling floodlit cup football with many memorable moments and shock results. In more recent seasons it has garnered a reputation for being the competition in which the young stars of the future make their bow in professional football.
This includes Cesc Fabregas who made his professional debut in the competition against Rotherham United to become Arsenal’s youngest ever player. Similarly, future England stars John Terry, Jermaine Defoe and David Beckham all made their first professional appearances in the Carabao Cup.
Wayne Rooney launched his scoring career in it too, bagging his first ever goal in professional football, for Everton against Wrexham in October 2002. His England team-mate, Theo Walcott, also marked his debut goal for Arsenal in the 2007 Final against Chelsea.
In 1981, the competition also broke new ground by becoming the first competition to bear the name of a sponsor following a ground-breaking deal with the National Dairy Council.
The joint-most successful Clubs in the history of the Carabao Cup are Liverpool and Manchester City who have won the competition on eight occasions, having won the competition for a fourth successive season in April 2021.