Saints Enter U21 Premier League

By SFC Media Fri 03 Aug Club

Saints will be one of 23 teams to participate in the newly-created Barclays U21 Premier League next season.

As a result of a comprehensive review of youth development in this country, clubs were invited to apply for different youth system gradings under the Elite Player Performance Plan.

Saints were one of 23 teams to apply for Category One, the highest-possible grading, and announced last week that we had been successful in achieving our desired status.

All of the clubs who applied to be classified as Category One will enter into the new U21 League, which runs alongside the Barclays Premier Academy League.

The intention of the new league is to ensure a competitive environment in which players can make the transition from Academy football into a First Team environment.

Teams playing in U21 fixtures are permitted to include three overage outfield players and one overage goalkeeper in their match-day squads.

The 23 participating clubs have been drawn into one of three groups – two of eight clubs and one of seven. Saints have been placed in National Group 2 along with Aston Villa, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Stoke City, Sunderland, Tottenham Hotspur and Watford.

Teams will play each other once at home and once away during the group stage, with the top three sides in Groups 1 and 2 plus the top two in Group 3 progressing to the Elite Group Stage.

Sides who do not qualify for the Elite Group Stage will progress into Qualification Group Tiers 1 and 2 depending on their finishing positions.

The second group stage will then see teams play one-another home and away, with the top three sides from the Elite Group Stage then progressing into the semi-finals of the knock-out stage.

They will be joined in the knock-outs by one side from the Qualification Group, with the winners of Tiers 1 and 2 facing one-another in a play-off for a place in the semi-finals.

One semi sees the winner of the Elite Group Stage face the winner of the Qualification Group play-off, while the second- and third-placed teams from the Elite Group Stage will go head-to-head in the other semi.

The National Group fixtures will generally take place over the course of a weekend from Fridays to Mondays, with the intention being for players to be available both for First Team and U21 matches.

At least two Barclays U21 Premier League matches must be staged at the main ground of each club, with play-offs, semi-finals and the final also being held at team's main stadiums.

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