Carling League Cup
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The Carling Cup – A Brief Look
The Football League Cup, currently known as the Carling Cup, is an association football competition between the teams of England. It is similar to many of the other national cup tournaments around Europe and differentiates itself from the FA cup by only allowing teams from The Football League and the FA Premier League into the competition. The winners will qualify for the UEFA Europa League and for many teams this is their only real avenue into that tournament. The current cup is called the Carling Cup because Carling brewery is the primary sponsor. This trophy is not as prestigious as the FA cup, but that does not make the competition any less exciting. In fact in many cases it is more so because the larger clubs often do not place a heavy emphasis on the tournament instead fielding squads with weaker sides. This can lead to exciting matches between many of the teams throughout England.
Format and Features of The Carling Cup
The first Football League Cup was played for after the 196061 season. The tournament was not as successful in the first couple years as many of the top clubs opted out of playing in the tournament. With the addition of an automatic entry into the UEFA Cup however this changed and many of the top squads that were unable to get in played in the Football League Cup to get into that tournament. The actual tournament is broken up into eight separate rounds, although some of these are not played every time.
The preliminary round is only played when needed and as of today this has only happened once in 2002-03. This round was set up to ease some of the matches and movement of teams into the third and second rounds. It usually involves clubs that finished lowest in all of the leagues and are all single matches with extra time and penalty shootouts.
All the teams from the different leagues other then the Premier begin in the first round. Teams that are currently competing in the UEFA Champions League or the UEFA Europa League will enter at later stages, but the majority of teams start their play here. The clubs are split up into a northern and southern section, and while these groups are set up to be equal they generally are not. The clubs are seeded and matched against each other with the winners progressing onto the next round. Not all clubs are seeded and for those that are not a random draw is made to figure out who the will play. In addition a draw is made to determine whether or not the seeded team will play at home. Similar to the preliminary round the matches are single with extra time and penalty shootouts. The winner will progress to the second round.
In the second round all clubs from the Premier League and the winners from the first round enter the competition. Play is the same as in the first round, single match with extra time and penalty shots, winner moving onto the third round. In the third round all of the clubs that will be competing in the UEFA Champions and UEFA Europa League enter to compete against the second round winners. This round will have a total of thirty two teams. Again, play is the same as the previous rounds. The winners from the third round proceed to the fourth round in the same format then again onto the fifth round, otherwise known as the quarter finals.
After the fifth round the four winners from the quarter finals meet up in the semi finals. In this round the format changes as ties are played over two matches with the aggregate score being used to figure out the winner. If this results in a time, extra time is played. If no one breaks the tie in extra time the team which scored the most away goals wins and moves onto the finals. Finally, if this is also equal a penalty shootout is used.
The two winners of these matches then proceed onto the finals where they meet in a single match played on neutral ground. This match has the same format as the matches before the semi finals with extra time and a penalty shootout if needed.
The most dominant team in the history of the Carling Cup is Liverpool having captured titles on seven different occasions. Other then them however there really is not another dominant team in this tournament. In fact many of the teams have had matches that resulted in Giant Killers rising up to defeat mighty squads. However a lot of these are not as famous as the matches from the FA Cup as all the teams in the Carling Cup come from the professional leagues across England.
While the Carling Cup is not as grand as the FA Cup, it is still an important tournament in English football. The implications of this tournament can have a wide ranging effect especially when it comes to international play. The majority of teams that enter the tournament do so to get the coveted spot in the Europa League. This spot was in danger following the restructuring of European football, but as of yet there has been no action on this. The Carling Cup is of most importance to the middle tier teams that are looking for a realistic way to get into international competition. For the fans of these teams and the teams themselves the Carling Cup offers a realistic way to make that happen. The trophy and tournament will continue to have an important place for these fans and clubs.