Premier League set to introduce 'Swiss-style' format for Under-21s

Premier League 2 currently has a two-tier format 

Premier League 2 currently has a two-tier format 

PREMIER LEAGUE 2 could become a one-tier competition with no promotion or relegation under proposals being considered by clubs.

There has been a season-long review of the Under-21s competition because of concerns about how effective the current games programme is in preparing Academy players for the senior game.

Currently, Category One clubs are placed in Premier League 2 and placed in two divisions. A handful of new formats have been suggested for the start of the 2024/25 campaign and Academy Managers will choose one to be put forward to the Premier League Annual General Meeting in June.

Club directors will then vote on the proposal at the AGM, with at least 13 of 20 votes required to push any changes through.

Swiss Style Format 

  • 1 x single group containing 25 teams
  • Teams seeded based on multi-year performance
  • Fixtures drawn from 5 pots based on seedings
  • A 21-game week scenario would involve teams playing each club in their own pot plus 4/5 teams in all other pots, either home or away (would equate to 20 regular season games)
  • Results generate a combined table that determines play-off positions
  • UEFA Champions League will introduce this format in 2024/25

The ‘Swiss model’ is believed to be the one that is most widely preferred by Academy Managers. This is based on the Swiss-system tournament used in chess and will be used in the Champions League from 2024/25, albeit with fewer teams. The proposal for PL2 is that there would be one single league of 25 teams, with clubs seeded based on their historical performance in the competition.

Each team would play 20 matches in the regular season (the same number as in PL2 Division Two in 2022/23 but six fewer than in PL2 Division One).

Fixtures are drawn out of five pots based on these seedings and teams would play each club in their own pot as well as four or five teams from the other pots.

At the end of the regular season the top 16 teams would go into play-offs to determine the overall winner. The idea is that by removing relegation, development decisions will take priority over league position.

In recent years, some clubs have opted to retain players for longer than they otherwise might have in order to boost their PL2 position, or they have recruited specifically for the U21 age group.

However, some club officials are concerned that the new one-tier format would reduce the amount of jeopardy or meaningful competition in the latter stages of the season.

The proposed changes mark another shift back to the one-tier U21 Premier League format that was last seen in the 2013/14 season. Back then, a 22-team league was won by a Chelsea side featuring Nathan Ake, Andreas Christensen and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

A year ago, PL2 reverted from an U23 to U21 league, with clubs permitted to field five ‘over-aged’ players.

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