The countdown is on! This Saturday, the Sky Bet Championship will kick-start another exhilarating and unpredictable three days of Play-Off Finals across the Bank Holiday Weekend.
But for 48 children, a dream is close to becoming a reality as representatives from Queens Park Rangers, Sheffield Wednesday, AFC Wimbledon, Oldham Athletic, Colchester United and Morecambe will grasp their opportunity to play on the Wembley turf in the EFL Kids Cup Final.
Nearly 15,000 youngsters and over 1,800 schools have taken part in six-a-side tournaments organised on behalf of the EFL and EFL Trust, with the 72 EFL clubs firstly split into three divisions, in line with the club’s divisional status, before being again split into two groups, north and south.
The six winners of the northern and southern finals in each respective division are then given the opportunity to be crowned Kids Cup champions at Wembley before their represented division’s Play-Off Final.
So, who are the schools and the children that have earned a once in a lifetime experience this weekend?
Queens Park Rangers – John Keble Primary School
QPR and John Keble Primary school progressed to the Wembley showpiece after beating Aston Villa, who topped the standings at the end of the group stages, before a narrow 1-0 victory against Cardiff City in the regional Final.
Team: 5. Elluyani Passos ©, 1. Daniel Matuka (GK), 6. Jimmy Nguyen. 7. Christopher Eldemire, 8. Toure Downer, 9. D’Jahnni Smith, 10. Donte Ranger, 11. Reshaun Da Silva.
Sheffield Wednesday – Greenhill Primary School
Underdogs going into their regional Final, Sheffield Wednesday and Greenhill Primary School defeated a Hull City side who had yet to concede a goal leading up to that stage. Once again, one goal was enough to seal their place in the Final.
Team: 9. Callum Milner ©, 13. Thomas Everest-Wilcock (GK), 2. Lucian Hagin, 4. James Wilson, 15. Toby Smith, 16. Daniel Birch, 17. Tommy Snell, 18. Jude Akram.
AFC Wimbledon – Cleves School
A former winner of the EFL Kids Cup, Cleves school will be returning to Wembley Stadium hoping to win the competition for a second time after defeating Southend 1-0 in the regional Final.
Interestingly, what makes it even more special for the school is that four of the boys playing this weekend had older siblings in the team that played, and won, at Wembley two years ago.
Team: 11. Edward Roberts ©, 1. Samuel Honour (GK), 3. Ben Vigrass, 6. Frank Vigrass, 7. Joshua Lewis, 8. Oliver Swetman, 10. Sami Holmes, 17. Charlie Davidson.
Oldham Athletic – South Failsworth Primary
Another former winner of the competition after their success in 2013/14 against Crawley Town. Returning to similar surroundings, will they get their hands on another Kids Cup Trophy in Sunday’s Final?
Team: 10. Evan Lloyd ©, 1. Zack Tobin (GK), 4. Ted Dockray, 5. Xander Taylor, 7. Stephen Maylett, 8. Kieran O’Hanlon, 9. Amalee Mason, 15. Jayden Brooks.
Colchester United – St John Fisher School
An impressive route towards the National Stadium for Colchester United, winning every single game, scoring 11 goals and conceding just two. A 1-0 victory against Cheltenham Town secured their place, with a free-kick in the final moments deciding the game.
Team: 9. Harry Amass ©, 1. Riley Doherty (GK), 6. Joshua Popoola, 7. Eden McNicholas, 10. Charlie Jiggins, 11. Harvey North, 12. Harry Falzon, 17. Evan Bastow.
Morecambe - St. Peter’s C of E Primary School
Morecambe were certainly made to work for their place in the League Two showpiece after an exciting and topsy-turvy affair against Crewe Alexandra in the regional Final. Both sides had led at stages before a dramatic late winner secured St Peter’s C of E a place at Wembley.
Team: 8. Oliver Whatmuff ©, 1. Dominic Holden (GK), 3. Noah Jones, 4. Harley Illingworth, 6. Josh Robinson, 7. Adam Fairclough, 9. Scott James Freeman, 10. Alfie Buckley.
Best of luck to all the schools and participants involved, and enjoy what is sure to be a fantastic occasion across all three Play-Off Finals.