Football Academy Categories

Read on to learn all about “Football Academy Categories”. Also, we shall discuss these subtopics: Working Principles Of Football Academy Categories, Category One Football Academies, Category Two Academy List, Football Academy Category One: Premier League 2 (U23s), etc.

In 2012, the youth football development system in England underwent a significant and contentious transformation. This was when they introduced the EPPP (Elite Player Performance Plan). This initiative, spearheaded by the Premier League, aimed to enhance both the number and calibre of locally trained players. The plan was a collaborative effort, involving input from the Premier League, the Football League, the Football Association, and several football clubs. They were with the primary focus on improving the development of individual players.


Related: Gaining Entrance into Leicester City Football Academy

Working Principles Of Football Academy Categories

The EPPP academy system employs an impartial evaluation procedure in which clubs undergo assessments and are assigned ratings ranging from 1 to 4, with 1 signifying the highest status.


These assessments encompass various crucial aspects, such as productivity rates, training facilities, coaching, education, and welfare provisions, and are used to determine the appropriate grading.

The EPPP aims to increase funding from the FA and Premier League for English Youth Development, distributing investment in a tiered fashion among football academy categories. Consequently, Category One academies will receive greater funding compared to Category Two and subsequent tiers.

Category One Football Academies

It is very rare for football schools, not just those in the Premier League, to be ranked number one. This status takes a lot of hard work from the club and is based on the quality of their teaching, facilities, equipment, and planned growth.


To maintain the Category One status, big expenses are needed. Some clubs choose not to make their status public so that parents and players don’t become too interested.

Related: Ways To Enter The Tottenham Football Youth Academy

Football Academy Category One: Premier League 2 (U23’s)

Once the 2016–17 season starts, all Category 1 Academies will play in Premier League 2 instead of the U21 Premier League (2012–16).

Football players younger than 23 years old can play in Premier League 2. This change is meant to put more focus on energy, technical skills, and strength, so that young players can get a better feel for what it’s like to play for the first team. There are 15 Premier League teams and 9 Championship teams in the league.

Premier League 2 is split into two leagues, Division One and Division Two. Each has 12 teams, and at the end of each season, teams are promoted or relegated. Also, Category 1 schools can play in the Premier League Cup, the EFL Trophy, and the Premier League International Cup.

Premier League 2 Rules:

  • Each team competes against the others in their division twice, once at home and once away.
  • The team that finishes in the top spot in Division One will be declared the champions.
  • The two teams that finish at the bottom of Division One will be demoted to Division Two.
  • The winners of Division Two will be promoted automatically to Division One.
  • The teams that finish in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th positions in Division Two will participate in a playoff for the remaining promotion spot.

Here are the past champions at the U21 level:

  • Manchester United – 2015/16
  • Manchester United – 2014/15
  • Chelsea – 2013/14
  • Manchester United, 2012/13

Football Academy Categories: U18 Premier League

The U18 Premier League is the first step in helping young football players make the jump from youth school sport to the main team. It is made up of Category One Academies, which have 12 clubs in the north and south area groups and 15 Premier League and 9 Championship teams.

Related: Joining West Ham United Academy: See registration requirements

Category One Academies: U18 Premier League Rules:

Each team in a region will play every other team in that region twice, once at home and once away. The leagues are split into three groups as the season comes to a close. Because of this, new teams are made. The first final stage group is made up of the top four teams from each area. The second final stage group is made up of teams in positions 5–8, and the third and final stage group is made up of teams in positions 9–12.

Subsequently, clubs within each group will compete against each other once, and the team that emerges victorious in Group 1 will be declared the champions.

Previous U18 Premier League Winners:

  • Manchester City, 2015/16
  • Middlesbrough, 2014/15
  • Everton – 2013/14
  • Fulham, 2012/13

Category One Academy List

These clubs hold the prestigious Category One status as part of the Premier League’s Elite Players Performance Plan (EPPP).

Football Academy Categories: Category Two Academies (U23)

Teams that are in Category two have equipment that is a little less reliable than teams that are in Category one. The Professional Development League (PDL) has two divisions, with 11 teams in the North and 10 teams in the South. These 21 teams play in both.

Then, the best teams from these groups play in a final to see who wins the Professional Development League. Also, it’s important to know that this level of school football is one level below the Premier League. There are no ways to move up or down in this league system, though.

Teams from each region will play each other both at home and away. The top two teams from each region will then play in a playoff to see who wins the PDL title.

Related: How To Join Newcastle Football Academy

Category Two Academies: U18 Professional Development League

In the U18 PDL, there are also competitions between academies in the second category. It involves two regional divisions (North and South), followed by a playoff to determine the champion.

U18 Professional Development League Rules:
  • Each team plays the other teams in their region twice (home and away)
  • The top two teams from each region face each other in a play-off situation to decide the final positions.
Previous U18 Professional Development Lead National Champions:
  • Charlton Athletic, 2015/16

Category Two Academy List

The following clubs have Category Two status under the Premier League’s Elite Players Performance Plan (EPPP).

Related: How To Join Leeds Football Academy


In conclusion, football academies play a pivotal role in nurturing talent and developing young players into skilled athletes. Also, the categorization of these academies, whether based on age groups, skill levels, or other criteria, helps provide tailored training and development opportunities for aspiring footballers. However, by offering a structured pathway for players to progress and improve, football academy categories contribute significantly to the growth and success of the sport at all levels.


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