Morecambe learn EFL Trophy group opponents

Morecambe boss Jim Bentley.

Morecambe boss Jim Bentley.

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Morecambe have found out who they will be facing in the group stages of the new-look Football League Trophy.

The EFL Trophy this year sees 16 category one academies from Premier League and Championship clubs joining sides from Leagues 1 and 2 in a 64-team competition.

The Shrimps will take on Stoke City’s Under 23s, Bradford City and Bury in Northern Group C.

The competition has courted plenty of controversy with Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United amongst those to have turned down invites to play in the former Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

Premier League Leicester, Chelsea, Southampton, West Ham United, Stoke City, Everton, Swansea City, West Bromwich Albion, Sunderland and Middlesbrough are joined by Championship Norwich City, Brighton, Derby, Wolves, Blackburn and Reading.

Academy sides must have six of the starting 11 be under 21 as of June 30 with no stated restrictions on nationality.

The top two sides in each group will then go into a 32-team knockout stage with the final taking place on April 2.

Increased prize money is on offer with an expected £1.95m being up for grabs including £10,000 per win and £5,000 per draw during the group stage and £100,000 for the eventual winner.

Other initiatives to shake up the competition include penalty shoot-outs for an extra point if group stage games end in a draw.