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Everton’s young Toffees have opportunity for further success next season

Club confirms the U23 side will compete in the 2017/18 Checkatrade Trophy

Everton v Liverpool: Premier League 2 Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Everton have confirmed their U23 side will once again compete in the 2017-18 Checkatrade Trophy.

The young Toffees are one of 16 invited Category One academy teams entering the competition alongside senior League One and League Two sides.

The decision to introduce academy sides caused controversy when it was first introduced last season, with a number of supporters of lower league sides boycotting their matches.

The revamp is designed to stimulate interest in the competition as well as providing vital experience for young players and improve their development.

Despite the controversy surrounding the new format lower league clubs voted to continue with it this season - perhaps helped by the EFL increasing the total prize fund to £3m.

The selection criteria for the 16 invited Under-21 teams is to include at least six players in each starting XI who are under the age of 21 on 30 June 2017.

Like last season, Everton will compete against three teams from League One and League Two in a regionalised group.

Changes for the 2017-18 competition include all academy sides playing their group games away from home, while regionalisation will be extended from the second round through to the quarter-finals.

Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City are among the 16 academy sides to enter the competition this season.

Last year the young Toffees beat Bolton in their opening group match but defeat to Cheltenham set up a winner-takes-all tie with Blackpool.

The game finished 1-1 at Goodison Park meaning a penalty shootout would decide who went through, with the Toffees going on to lose 5-4.

Despite that disappointment Everton U23s would go on to become Premier League 2 Division One champions. And with the opportunity of a Wembley final this competition would certainly be an attractive proposition for the young players.

The draw for the group stage of the Checkatrade Trophy takes place on Wednesday 12 July, with the first fixtures scheduled for the week starting 28 August.