Let’s take a look at some of the interesting matchups in the First Round of the 2021-22 EFL (League) Cup also known as the Carabao Cup.
We will, in particular, preview the EFL Cup games you can stream on ESPN+ in the US, as well as some of the clubs we have written about here at Groundhopper Soccer Guides.
(Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning Groundhopper Guides may receive some compensation if you make a purchase after clicking one of these links.)
Brief Background: What is the EFL Cup?
The English Football League Cup, known as the Carabao Cup for sponsorship reasons, is a knockout competition for the 92 professional clubs of the English Football League and the English Premier League. It starts in August, and while there is no bracket — opponents are chosen at random — the first two rounds are regionalized to help with travel costs for clubs and supporters.
The first round involves almost all 72 Football League clubs, and in the Second Round they are joined by the other two Championship clubs and the 13 Premier League clubs who aren’t playing in Europe this season. Those seven teams join in the Third Round.
Here’s a look at the entire schedule for the 2021-22 EFL Cup. The Final is February 27, 2022 at Wembley Stadium (above).
How to Watch the League Cup on TV or Live Stream Online in the USA
Several games of each early round, and all of the later rounds, can be streamed on ESPN+ in the US.
ESPN+ is also part of a fuboTV subscription.
2021-22 EFL Cup First Round Fixtures
Starting Tuesday, August 10, at 2:45 p.m. Eastern on ESPN+, it’s Derby County, a club that was in the Premier League not that long ago but for the 2021-22 season is barely still in the Championship.
They finished 21st out of 24 last season, just avoiding relegation to League One on the last day. But their finances are a mess, and in July 2021 the Football League placed them under severe restrictions when it comes to signing players. Manager Wayne Rooney has his work cut out for him.
Speaking of former Manchester United greats, Derby will be hosting Salford City, a club which wasn’t even fully professional until 2017, when they were taken over by several former “Class of 92” players from Man United. (Salford is a city in Greater Manchester.) They just made the Football League in 2019 and lost in the League Two Playoff Final last year, thus just missing out on League One.
Also on Tuesday, August 10 at 3 p.m. Eastern you can watch Barnsley, the little club in Yorkshire known as the Tykes, who will be traveling up to the bigger-than-you-would-think Macron Stadium, home of Bolton Wanderers. They were in the Premier League 10 years ago, but since then have been through financial hell, and spent last season in League Two. When Groundhopper Paul visited in 2015, they weren’t even sure they could pay their players! They were promoted back to the third tier by a single point last season.
On Wednesday, August 11, the ESPN+ game is a bit of a London derby, though not one that has happened often: Queens Park Rangers will visit Leyton Orient at 2:45 p.m. Eastern. Rangers hail from West London, where their real derbies are with Chelsea and Brentford (both in the Premier League) and Fulham, whom they will play in the Championship twice this season. These two clubs have never met in a league match and only twice in the League Cup.
Orient — the name seems to have come from a former player who worked for the Orient Steam Navigation Company — are a League Two team based in East London, and they are recovering from spending two seasons out of the Football League and also, tragically, from the death (cardiac arrest) of their young manager just after securing promotion back to League Two.
Brisbane Road is a charming little ground in a rapidly gentrifying area of London — check out our Groundhopper Guide to the club here — and has also been the destination for one of our Groundhop Soccer Tours. Check out how they have apartments (flats) in the corner of the ground; they sold some of the property to raise money a few years ago, so there are people who can literally sit on their porch and watch the game.
Other Carabao Cup First Round Games of Note
Sutton United, newly promoted to the Football League for the first time in their 123-year history, are therefore playing in the League Cup for the first time ever. Their reward is a trip to Cardiff City in South Wales.
There’s another kind-of South London Derby on tap as AFC Wimbledon will visit Charlton Athletic — the Dons no doubt wishing they had gotten a home game in their brand new stadium at their ancestral home, Plough Lane. Should be a good atmosphere at The Valley, anyway.
And speaking of coming home, Coventry City’s two-year exile of groundsharing at Birmingham City has come to an end, so when they host Northampton Town — ironically the club they last had to groundshare with, back in 2013-14 — they will actually get to be “at home” in Coventry.