Sunderland WILL play in Football League Trophy after learning their opponents

Sunderland U21 coach Andy Welsh
Sunderland U21 coach Andy Welsh
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Sunderland will face Hartlepool, Rochdale and Notts County in the opening round of the Football League Trophy after confirming their participation in the competition.

The revamped Trophy has caused controversy after Premier League Under-21 sides have been invited to participate for the first time alongside League One and League Two outfits.

Six of the 16 top flight clubs invited have rejected the offer - including Newcastle - but Sunderland will take part, with Andy Welsh's side drawn against Rochdale, Pools and Notts County in the group stages.

The top two from each group will qualify for the knock-out rounds, culminatng in a showpiece final at Wembley.

Sunderland will have to field six players who are 21 or under in their starting XI, with first-teamers eligible for the remaining positions.