Football League Cup
Capital One Cup logo
|Number of teams||92|
|Current champions||Swansea City (1st title)|
|Most successful club(s)||Liverpool (8 titles)|
|2012–13 Football League Cup|
The Football League Cup, commonly known as the League Cup or by a name referring to the current sponsor, is an English men's association football competition. Like the FA Cup, it is played on a knockout (single elimination) basis. Unlike the FA Cup, where 758 teams entered in 2012–13, only 92 clubs can enter the League Cup – the 20 Premier League clubs, and the 72 clubs of The Football League, which organises the competition. Also unlike the FA Cup, the semi-finals are played over two legs. The winners qualify for the UEFA Europa League, unless they have qualified for the Champions League through their league position, in which case the Europa League berth goes to the highest-placed team from the Premier League not already qualified for Europe. Swansea City are the current holders.
Although the League Cup is one of the three major domestic trophies attainable by English league teams, it is perceived by some larger clubs as a lower priority than the league championship, UEFA Champions League, and the FA Cup. League Cup winners receive £100,000 prize money (awarded by the Football League) with the runners-up receiving £50,000, considered relatively worthless to top flight teams, compared to the £2 million prize money of the FA Cup, which is in turn eclipsed by the Premier League's television money awarded on final league position as well as participation in the Champions League.
Some clubs have made a point of fielding a weaker side in the competition, making the opportunity for giant-killing of the larger clubs more likely. Many of the top English sides, Arsenal and Manchester United in particular, have used the competition to give young players valuable big-game experience. Recently, in response to Arsène Wenger's claim that a League Cup win would not end his trophy drought, Alex Ferguson described the trophy as "a pot worth winning".
The women's game has its own League Cup, which is open to the 36 women's clubs in the three divisions of the FA Women's Premier League, although the women's competition is governed by the FA and not the Football League.
During the late 1950s, the majority of senior English clubs equipped their grounds with floodlights. This opened up the opportunity to exploit weekday evenings throughout the winter. The League Cup was introduced in the 1960–61 season specifically as a mid-week floodlit tournament, to replace the Southern Professional Floodlit Cup. In the early years of the competition, many of the top teams declined to take part. It was only when automatic entry to the UEFA Cup was promised to the winners that the full League membership took part.
In the last 10 years, following restructuring of European football, and the introduction of the restructured format of the UEFA Champions League, the League Cup was threatened with losing its UEFA Cup berth for its winners. It has retained it thus far, however; England and France are the only UEFA members offering a European berth to the winners of their second cup competitions. This has allowed the League Cup to retain popularity, especially with fans of clubs for whom success in cup competitions offers their only realistic chance of qualifying for Europe.
Aston Villa were the inaugural winners in 1960–61 defeating Rotherham United 3–2 in the final over two legs. Liverpool have won the cup on the most occasions with eight victories including four successive trophies in the early 1980s. They completed two trebles of trophy wins, in 1984 and 2001. The present holders are Swansea City who beat Bradford City 5–0 in the 2013 Final, in the Welsh club's first trip to the final.
Giant killings are less well remembered in the League Cup than the FA Cup due to the absence of non-league sides and the fact that many big clubs have fielded very under-strength sides when knocked out. However, there have been some notable upsets, such as Fourth Division side Chester knocking league champions Leeds United out 3–0 en route to the semi-finals in 1974–75. In 1995–96, Manchester United were beaten 3–0 at home by York City in the second round, first leg; United could only win 3–1 in the second leg and went out 4–3 on aggregate (York went on to repeat the achievement against Everton the following year). Also,the final of 1967 saw Division Three side Queens Park Rangers come from 2–0 down at half time to win 3–2 against top-flight West Bromwich Albion in the first League Cup Final to be hosted at Wembley Stadium. United have also been knocked out by Southend United and Coventry City in 2006–07 and 2007–08 respectively: in the match against Southend they fielded a strong side, bucking a trend they had themselves started. In 2001–02, holders Liverpool were defeated 2–1 at home by Grimsby Town, then humbled again by Northampton Town in September 2010. Grimsby recorded another giant killing in 2005 by knocking out Tottenham Hotspur. In the 2012–13 competition, League Two side (fourth tier) Bradford City knocked out Premier League sides Wigan and Arsenal en route to a semi-final disposal of another top tier side Aston Villa 4–3 on aggregate to reach the final, becoming the lowest ranked team to do so since Rochdale in 1962. Swansea City, in their centenary year, became the first team from outside England to win the League Cup on 24 February 2013, when they beat Bradford City 5–0 to win their first major cup.
The competition is open to all 92 members of the Premier League and the Football League and is divided into seven rounds, organised so that 32 teams remain by the third round (with the exception of the 1961–62 competition). Since 1996–97, teams involved in European competition during the season have received a bye to the third round; the remaining Premier League teams enter at the second round, and the remaining Football League teams enter at the first round. If the number of byes causes an odd number of teams to enter a round, another team may be given a bye (usually the highest-placed team of those relegated from the Premier League the previous season) or a preliminary round may be played between the two teams promoted from the Football Conference the previous season (or, if only one team is promoted, that team would play against the lowest-placed team not to be relegated from the Football League the previous season); preliminary rounds have only been necessary in the 2002–03 and 2011–12 competitions. Up to 1995–96, all teams were involved by the second round, although some received byes to that stage.
Matches in all rounds are single-legged, except for the semi-finals, which have been two-legged since the competition began. The final was two-legged from 1961 to 1966, but has been single-legged ever since. The first round was two-legged from 1975–76 to 2000–01, and the second round was two-legged from 1979–80 to 2000–01. Single-legged matches would be replayed as necessary until 1993–94, when penalties were introduced to settle the first replay; the last single-legged tie to require a replay was played in 1996–97. Until 1974–75, two-legged ties that remained level after extra time in the second leg would be replayed; in that time, three ties reached a third replay. Between 1975–76 and 1979–80, ties would still be replayed, but a penalty shoot-out would be used to settle ties that could not be decided after a replay; replays of two-legged matches were finally abolished for 1980–81, with the away goals rule and penalties being adopted instead. The semi-finals were the exception to this, with level ties being replayed until 1986–87, after which the away goals rule and penalties were introduced.
For the first six seasons of the Football League Cup, the final was played over two legs, with each leg being played at the home ground of each finalist. Since 1967, the final has been played as a single match at Wembley Stadium, although the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff was used between 2001 and 2007, following the demolition of the old Wembley. Between 1967 and 1997, finals that finished level after extra time would be replayed at an alternative venue until a winner was decided. The only final to require two replays was the 1977 final between Aston Villa and Everton. The venues that hosted replays were Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, Old Trafford and Maine Road in Manchester and Villa Park in Birmingham. Since 1998, finals that have finished level after extra time have been decided by penalty shoot-out.
Since 1990, the best player in the League Cup final – as chosen by the Sky Sports television panel – has been presented with the Alan Hardaker trophy, named after the former secretary of The Football League who devised the Football League Cup. The current holder of the trophy is Swansea City's Nathan Dyer. Ben Foster is the only player to win the award more than once (in 2009 and 2011).
Since 1982, the League Cup has been named after its sponsor, giving it the following names:
|1960–1982||No main sponsor||Football League Cup|
|1982–1986||Milk Marketing Board||Milk Cup|
|1986–1990||Littlewoods||Littlewoods Challenge Cup|
|2003–2012||Molson Coors||Carling Cup|
|2012–2016||Capital One||Capital One Cup|
Three different trophies have been presented to the winners of the League Cup since its inauguration:
- The original trophy, given to the winners since 1990–91
- The trophy presented from 1986–87 until 1989–90 during Littlewoods' sponsorship of the competition
- The trophy presented from the first season of the Milk Marketing Board sponsoring the competition, 1981–82 to 1985–86
As of 2013:
- Most tournament wins (team): 8 wins, Liverpool.
- Most final appearances (team): 11, Liverpool. 
- Most tournament wins (individual): 5, Ian Rush for Liverpool.
- Most final appearances: (individual): 6, Ian Rush for Liverpool (1981–1984, 1987, 1995) and Emile Heskey for Leicester City (1997, 1999, 2000), Liverpool (2001, 2003) and Aston Villa (2010).
- Highest goalscorer (career): Geoff Hurst, Ian Rush 49 goals.
- Highest goalscorer (season): Clive Allen, for Tottenham Hotspur, 12 goals in 1986–87.
- Most goals scored in a match (individual): 6 goals, by Frankie Bunn for Oldham Athletic vs Scarborough, 25 October 1989.
- Most goals scored and the team goes on to lose: 5 goals, by Reading during Reading's 5–7 defeat to Arsenal, Fourth round, 30 October 2012. (First round onwards, does not include qualifying)
- Biggest win: Liverpool 10–0 Fulham, second round first leg, 23 September 1986 and West Ham United 10–0 Bury, second round second leg, 25 October 1983.
- Biggest win in a final: Swansea City 5–0 Bradford City, 24 February 2013.
- Highest scoring game: Reading 5–7 Arsenal, fourth round, 30 October 2012.
- Youngest player: Ashley Chambers, 15 years 203 days, for Leicester City vs Blackpool, 2005.
- Youngest goalscorer in the final: Norman Whiteside, 17 years 324 days, for Manchester United vs Liverpool, 1983.
- Youngest captain in the final: Barry Venison, 20 years, 7 months 8 days, for Sunderland vs Norwich City, 1985.
As of 2013
- 8 times
- 5 times
- 4 times
- 3 times
- 2 times
- 1 time
- Blackburn Rovers
- Leeds United
- Luton Town
- Oxford United
- Queens Park Rangers
- Sheffield Wednesday
- Stoke City
- Swansea City
- Swindon Town
- West Bromwich Albion
The BBC and Sky Sports are host broadcasters. For the 2009–10, 2010–11 and 2011–12 seasons, the BBC showed an evening highlights show, one leg of each semi-final and the final live. From 2012–13, the BBC will only show an evening highlights show for each round of matches after losing the rights in 2012. Sky broadcast at least one match from every round live, and from the 2012–13 have exclusive rights to broadcast both semi-finals and the final live after agreeing a three-year broadcast rights agreement in 2012.
In its early years, coverage of the competition was split between the BBC and ITV, though the final was usually on ITV (and was only shown as highlights until 1984). From 1988–89 to 2008–09, ITV were the only terrestrial broadcaster covering the competition. They showed it exclusively until 1996–97 when Sky began covering it, and acquired the exclusive live rights to the final.
In Australia, two matches from each round, the semi-finals and final are shown live on Setanta Sports Australia. In the U.S., games are broadcast by BeIN Sport USA. In Africa, Super Sport telecast the matches while Ten Sports and TEN Action cover the event in India and Pakistan. In Scandinavia, games are broadcast by Canal+.
In Arab countries, most matches from each round, the semi-finals and final are shown live on Al Jazeera Sports channels.
In Asia, excepting Japan and Korea, games are broadcast by Goal TV.
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