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The Football League Cup, also known as the Carling Cup, is England’s top domestic cup competition following the FA Cup. It doesn’t have the luster or tradition of the FA Cup, but like the FA Cup, does carry the potential of upsets or of surprise finalists or winners.
Top Premier League sides often use the Carling Cup as a chance to give young players or fringe players playing time throughout their run, but with the chance of earning a place in the UEFA Europa League on the line, many clubs take the Carling Cup very seriously and put out full-strength lineups from the start of their participation.
Carling Cup Past And Present
The Football League Cup began in 1960, and it has held the name of primary sponsor Carling since 2003. It is one of only two league cup competitions in Europe that sees its winner earn a place in the UEFA Europa League, with France’s Coupe de la Ligue being the other.
The first six finals were two-legged ties, but starting with the 1967 final, each final has been a single leg. Those first six finals were held at each finalist’s home ground, but the change to a single-legged final coincided with the final being played at the old Wembley Stadium, and it’s now held at the new Wembley. Most finals have taken place in February, March, or April, but since the start of the new decade, each final has taken place either at the end of February or in early March.
Unlike the FA Cup, which is open to hundreds of entrants, the Carling Cup is limited only to 92 clubs – the Premier League’s 20 member clubs and the 72 clubs that comprise the three divisions of the Football League.
Liverpool have won the most Carling Cup titles with seven, followed by Aston Villa with five. Manchester United are the current holders, having beaten Tottenham 4-1 in a penalty shootout in last season’s final.