Fixture dates have been confirmed for West Ham United U23s’ participation in the 2021/22 Premier League Cup.
Dmitri Halajko’s development squad will face one of Plymouth Argyle or Exeter City, as well as Swansea City and Wolverhampton Wanderers, in home and away group-stage matches between September and February.
Open to Category One and Category Two academies, with Categories Three and Four clubs vying in qualifiers to join them, the Premier League Cup is designed to enhance the competitiveness of the Professional Development Phase calendar with knockout football alongside the regular league campaign.
The competition returns this season after being curtailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019/20, and subsequently not taking place in 2020/21.
West Ham will kick off their campaign with a trip to fellow Category One academy Wolves on Friday 3 September. The match will take place at Kidderminster Harriers’ Aggborough Stadium, beginning at 2pm.
A home game against Plymouth or Exeter – who will play against one another in a qualifier currently scheduled for Friday 3 September – is next up on Wednesday 13 October, also commencing at 2pm at Rush Green.
The following month, the young Hammers head for South Wales to take on Swansea City at their academy facilities on Friday 12 November (kick-off 2pm), before the return round of matches commences when Wolves come to East London on Monday 13 December (also 2pm at Rush Green).
The Hammers’ longest trip of the group stages will take place in the New Year on Tuesday 18 January, with kick-off set for 2pm or 7pm at Home Park or St James' Park, depending on Plymouth or Exeter’s qualification respectively.
The final round of matches will take place on Friday 11 February, with West Ham facing a 2pm match at home to Swansea.
The top two teams from the group will advance to the knockout stages to comprise the Last 16, who will then play one-off knockout ties each month between March and May. The final is currently scheduled for mid-May 2022.
West Ham United last won the Premier League Cup six years ago in 2015/16, when – after a two-legged final ending in 1-0 home wins for both sides – the U21s defeated Hull City U21s on penalty kicks.
The tournament is nowadays contested between under-23 players with each side allowed to field three over-age outfield players and a goalkeeper born before January 1, 1998 in the 2021-22 season.
Supporters should note that U23s and U18s home fixtures are currently due to be played behind closed doors until further notice.
Only key personnel will be admitted on site at Rush Green Stadium and Little Heath Sports Ground until further notice, and matches at either ground are currently due to be played with only key personnel and a small number of invited guests present.