What is the Carabao Cup?

The FA Cup has long been the dominant domestic cup competition in Britain. Its illustrious history and the magic it conjures have maintained the cup’s relevance in the 21st century.

Its little brother, meanwhile, hasn’t enjoyed such a smooth ride. For many, the League Cup (now dressed up as the Carabao Cup due to sponsorship) has become an irrelevant component of the football calendar.

Big teams typically use the competition to give academy stars and fringe first-teamers a runout, while the upsets and feel-good stories that are part and parcel of the FA Cup’s magic are much harder to come by.

The Carabao Cup – as the Thai energy drink enthusiasts will want us to call it – has garnered its fair share of slack in recent times, but the competition is poised to be a part of the calendar for the long haul.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Carabao Cup.

Thai energy drink brand Carabao began sponsoring the League Cup at the start of the 2017/18 season, but the history of this competition dates much further back.

The English League Cup was introduced in 1960 in a bid to boost attendances across grounds. The competition was initially conceived to be a mid-week floodlit tournament to replace the Southern Professional Floodlit Cup, but it would develop into something much bigger.

The cup was initially shunned by England’s biggest clubs, but once a spot to play in the UEFA Cup and a Wembley final became up for grabs, the big boys started taking notice. Since 1972, entry into the League Cup has been compulsory for all Football League teams.

The competition has been named after its sponsor since 1985 with Carabao being the latest. There have been eight sponsors to date.

The current format of the competition is simple. All 92 Football League teams enter at various points, with the Premier League sides competing in Europe joining in the third round. The rest of the Premier League enters in round two.

Thus, the remaining 72 teams begin their journey to Wembley from the first round and 32 teams will be left by the time the big boys start their quest.

Between rounds one and five (the quarter-final), each tie is a one-legged affair with penalties deciding the victor should the contest end in a draw after 90 minutes. However, the semi-finals are decided over two legs with each team playing home and away.

The two semi-final winners will then compete in the final at Wembley Stadium, with this match typically taking place in February.

Here are the ten most recent Carabao Cup winners:

Year

Winner

Runner-up

2022

Liverpool

Chelsea

2021

Manchester City

Tottenham

2020

Manchester City

Aston Villa

2019

Manchester City

Chelsea

2018

Manchester City

Arsenal

2017

Manchester City

Liverpool

2016

Manchester United

Southampton

2015

Chelsea

Tottenham

2014

Manchester City

Sunderland

2013

Swansea City

Bradford

While Manchester City enjoyed a dominant stretch in the 2010s, their eight total victories are trumped by Liverpool, who are the current holders and have won the competition nine times.

The Reds’ first League Cup triumph arrived in 1981 and they went on to lift the trophy four years on the bounce amid a dominant period for the club. They’ve won the competition four times in the 21st century.

Aston Villa have lifted this trophy five times and they were the winners of the first iteration of the competition in 1960/61. However, the Villans – runners-up in 2020 – haven’t won the League Cup since 1996. Manchester United and Chelsea have also won the competition five times, while Tottenham and Nottingham Forest have each won it four times.

Leicester are three-time winners, while both Arsenal and Norwich City have lifted the trophy twice.