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Premier League launch U21 competition

The Premier League have launched a new Under-21 competition designed to bridge the gap between the academy and first team. Teams from 17 Premier League and six Championship clubs, effectively all those who applied for category one status, will be divided into three groups.

The emphasis will be on playing Under-21 players, with each team limited to just three over-age outfield players and one over-age goalkeeper.

"Each stage of a player's development is tailored to ensuring they have the best possible chance of progressing," Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said.

"The new Barclays Under-21 Premier League addresses one of the most critical points - the transition from academy football to the highest standards in the first team.

"We believe this competitive environment, where fans can also come along to watch the next generation of Premier League and international players, will help deliver more talented home grown boys to that next level."

National Group 1 - eight teams: Arsenal, Blackburn, Bolton, Everton, Norwich, Reading, West Brom, West Ham.

National Group 2 - eight teams: Aston Villa, Manchester United, Newcastle, Southampton, Stoke, Sunderland, Tottenham, Watford.

National Group 3 - seven teams: Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Fulham, Liverpool, Manchester City, Middlesbrough, Wolves.

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Dave Williams

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