Sunderland’s invitation to the new-look EFL Trophy has been confirmed, with the club’s youngsters getting a much-needed introduction to competitive football
The Black Cats are one of 16 Premier League and Championship clubs with Category One academies that will join League One and Two sides in the Trophy from next season.
Sunderland must field at least six Under-21 players in their starting line-up, in a bid to improve the development of homegrown talent.
Along with Newcastle and Middlesbrough, Sunderland will initially be placed into a four-team regionalised group stage, with the top two sides qualifying for the knock-out stages.
EFL Chief Executive, Shaun Harvey said: “The new format is intended to rejuvenate this competition and also assist the development of the very best young players in English football.
“This will help us deliver more and better home grown players which will deliver benefits to the national team and domestic league football at all levels.
“I believe this is the right time to pilot these changes to the EFL Trophy, which we will review at the end of the 2016-17 season following discussions with our clubs and having consulted with the other football bodies and supporter organisations.”
The competition will culminate in a showpiece final at Wembley on April 2, with £100,000 up for grabs to the winner thanks to an enhanced prize fund.
The other Category One clubs invited to take part are Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Southampton, Stoke, Swansea, Spurs, West Brom and West Ham.