Professional Development League

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The Professional Development League is a system of youth football leagues that are managed, organised and controlled by the Premier League or by the Football League. It was introduced by the Football Association via the Elite Player Performance Plan in 2012. [1]


The system was introduced in early 2012 and was active for the first time during the 2012–13 season. It is a successor to the Premier Reserve League, Premier Academy League and Football Combination. The Football League Youth Alliance makes up League 2 of the under-18 system. The system covers the under-18, under-21 and under-23 age groups. [1]

Previously, clubs participating in the Premier Reserve League (the highest level of reserve football in England) were removed from the competition if their first team in the Premier League were relegated and replaced with a promoted team. Under the Professional Development League system, Premier League reserves teams' league status is not directly linked to the first team's Premier League status. Instead, there are three different Professional Development Leagues at each age-group level and clubs in the top four tiers of the English football league system are placed in the system based on the assessment of their academy for the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP).

Under-23 level

Premier League 2

Premier League 2
League cup(s) Premier League Cup
EFL Trophy
International cup(s) Premier League International Cup
Current champions Manchester City (1st title)
Most championships Manchester United
(3 titles)
Current: Current season

From 2012 to 2016, EPPP Category 1 academies' most senior youth league was an under-21 league known as the U21 Premier League, with four over-age outfield players being permitted to play. From the 2016–17 season onwards, the competition is known as the Premier League 2 and the age limit increased from under-21 to under-23. [2]

The competition is split into two divisions, with promotion and relegation between each. Clubs in Premier League 2 can also compete in the Premier League Cup, the Premier League International Cup and the EFL Trophy, which is restricted to under-21 players. [3]

Champions (Division 1)

2012–13 Manchester United
2013–14 Chelsea
2014–15 Manchester United
2015–16 Manchester United
2016–17 Everton
2017–18 Arsenal
2018–19 Everton
2019–20 Chelsea
2020–21 Manchester City

Champions (Division 2)

2014–15 Middlesbrough
2015–16 Derby County
2016–17 Swansea City
2017–18 Blackburn Rovers
2018–19 Wolverhampton Wanderers
2019–20 West Ham United
2020–21 Leeds United

Professional Development League

Professional Development League
Current champions Birmingham City
Most championships Charlton Athletic
Crewe Alexandra
Swansea City
Huddersfield Town
Sheffield Wednesday
Bolton Wanderers
Leeds United
Birmingham City
(1 title each)

The senior youth age range for EPPP Category 2 academies is the Professional Development League. The competition is split into two regional divisions, with the overall champion determined after an end of season play-off series.


2012–13 Charlton Athletic
2013–14 Crewe Alexandra
2014–15 Swansea City
2015–16 Huddersfield Town
2016–17 Sheffield Wednesday
2017–18 Bolton Wanderers
2018–19 Leeds United
2019–20Cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic
2020–21 Birmingham City

Under-18 level

Division 1

U18 Premier League
Domestic cup(s) FA Youth Cup
International cup(s) UEFA Youth League
Current champions Manchester City (3rd title)
Most championships Manchester City (3 titles)

An under-18 league for EPPP Category 1 academies was formed alongside the formation of the Professional Development League in 2012. Known as the U18 Premier League, the competition is split into two regional divisions. The two winners of each division contest the final to determine the overall champions. Winners of the top division qualify for the UEFA Youth League.


2012–13 Fulham
2013–14 Everton
2014–15 Middlesbrough
2015–16 Manchester City
2016–17 Chelsea
2017–18 Chelsea
2018–19 Derby County
2019–20 Manchester City
2020–21 Manchester City

Division 2

U18 Professional Development League
Domestic cup(s) FA Youth Cup
Current champions Sheffield Wednesday (1st title)
Most championships Charlton Athletic (3 titles)

The junior youth age range for EPPP Category 2 academies is the U18 Professional Development League. The competition is split into two regional divisions, with the overall champion determined after an end of season play-off series.


2012–13 Queens Park Rangers
2013–14 Huddersfield Town
2014–15 Charlton Athletic
2015–16 Charlton Athletic
2016–17 Sheffield United
2017–18 Charlton Athletic
2018–19 Sheffield Wednesday
2019–20 Cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic
2020–21 Wigan Athletic F.C.

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Swansea City A.F.C. Under-23s Football club

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  1. 1 2 "Youth development rules" (pdf). Retrieved 8 August 2012.
  2. "Premier League 2: Competition format explained". Premier League. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
  3. "'Premier League 2 gives optimum opportunities'". Premier League. Retrieved 31 July 2016.