Stoke City’s new season is starting to take shape with a series of information released by the EFL highlighting key dates for everyone’s diaries.
Michael O’Neill is heading into his first full season in charge and the task is simple to explain but difficult to pull off: turn a team that battled against relegation for all of last season into one that can challenge for promotion.
Pre-season started last week and the players are currently on a five-day training camp in Belfast as the warm-up picks up pace.
Here’s what you need to know:
When are fixtures out?
The EFL have confirmed that next season’s fixtures will be released next week.
Set your alarms for 9am on Friday, August 21 and we’ll have them right here on StokeonTrentLive.
The Championship league season will begin on the weekend of September 12 after the delayed end to last season.
That will give clubs three weeks to prepare for their opening league matches.
With the season set to finish on the weekend of May 8, 2021, there will be a condensed fixture list for the campaign.
The Championship will contain 13 midweek matches, with 11 in both the League One and League Two, who don’t stop for international breaks.
The EFL will allow more time for clubs to prepare for play-off matches. The finals will be held at Wembley Stadium three weeks after the regular season ends – that’s the Spring Bank Holiday weekend of May 29.
League fixtures, however, will be the last matches that EFL clubs find out about, with the draws for the EFL Cup and EFL Trophy both taking place on Tuesday.
Carabao Cup changes
The Carabao Cup will kick-off an action-packed month of cup football throughout September.
The EFL have confirmed that there will be a number of significant scheduling changes to this season’s Carabao Cup.
The biggest change is that two legged semi-finals will be replaced by a single tie and the first four rounds are scheduled to take place on consecutive weeks.
Round one fixtures are scheduled to take place on Saturday, September 5, but due to that weekend being an international weekend, ties may be played on alternative dates. It has been suggested that some ties could be held in late August.
The EFL have also confirmed that rounds two, three and four will be played on consecutive midweeks dates starting on either the 15 or 16 of September.
Premier League sides will enter the competition in round two or round three if they are competing in a European competition.
The dates for the 2020/21 Carabao Cup are as follows:
Round One – 5 September 2020 (alternative dates may apply)
Round Two – 15/16 September 2020
Round Three – 22/23 September 2020
Round Four – 29/30 September 2020
Round Five – 22/23 December 2020
Semi-Finals – 5/6 January 2021 (tie to be played at the venue of Club drawn out first)
Final – 28 February 2021
The EFL have also confirmed that the draw for the first round will take place on Sky Sports News on Tuesday, August 18, with a time still to be confirmed.
While as per the previous two seasons, the first round draw will be divided into a northern and southern section but sides will remain unseeded.
FA Cup replays scrapped
FA Cup replays have been scrapped for the 2020/21 season.
The FA have announced the move in an attempt to ease fixture congestion in what is set to be a condensed season due to the coronavirus shutdown in March.
Some managers, particularly at Premier League level, have spoken out against replays in the past, arguing that they create too much of a fixture pile-up.
The FA have now opted to scrap replays for next season, with a number of leagues already set to face an increase in midweek fixtures due to the shorter season length.
It means matches that end in a draw will go to extra-time and penalties instead of an extra game being held.
After previously revealing that there would be a cut in prize money due to the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the FA have also confirmed the schedule for the 2020/21 FA Cup.
It will start with the extra preliminary round on September 1, with the final being held on May 15, 2021.
Like with league matches, some rounds will have to be held in midweek due to the delayed start of the competition.
Full FA Cup schedule
Extra preliminary round: Tuesday, 1 September
Preliminary round: Saturday, 12 September
First qualifying round: Tuesday, September 22
Second qualifying round: Saturday, October 3
Third qualifying round: Tuesday, October 13
Fourth qualifying round: Saturday, October 24
First round: Saturday, November 7
Second round: Saturday, November 28
Third round: Saturday, January 9
Fourth round: Saturday, January 23
Fifth round: Wednesday, February 10
Quarter-finals: Saturday, March 20
Semi-finals: Saturday, April 17
Final: Saturday, May 15
What’s happening with TV and streams?
Broadcasting plans for the EFL, Carabao Cup and EFL Trophy will be confirmed in due course.
Stoke confirmed in the latest meeting of their fans’ council: “The club is looking at streaming offers for the new season but is bound by the EFL and Sky’s input before any decisions can be made.
“The EFL in particular govern streaming pricing, though the club is already lobbying for some form of special offer for supporters as was offered in April.”
Key dates for 2020/21 season
First friendly: Linfield v Stoke City, Saturday, August 15 (2pm)
League Cup first round draw: Tuesday, August 18 (time to be confirmed)
Fixture release day: Friday, August 21 (9am)
League Cup round one (provisional): Saturday, September 5
Start of the EFL season: Saturday, September 12
Final round of the EFL season: May 8/9
Play-off finals: May 28-31
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