Sunderland

Reserve league changes confirmed

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Sunderland to take part in Under-21 competition following shake-up.

Sunderland will compete in the new Barclays U21 Premier League during the coming season after a shake-up of reserve-team football was unveiled by the Premier League.

The first national competition for Under-21 players will kick off this month featuring the 23 clubs who applied for Category One status under the new EPPP regulations - 17 from the Premier League and a further six clubs from the Npower Championship.

Sunderland's development squad will feature in the competition, which has a heavy emphasis on youth. Clubs are only allowed to field three over-age outfield players in games, plus one over-age goalkeeper.

The clubs have been split into three national groups, with Sunderland drawn in Group 2 alongside Aston Villa, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Southampton, Stoke City, Tottenham Hotspur and Watford.

Each club will play each other twice - home and away - in the first group stage, with the top clubs qualifying for an Elite Group Stage. Clubs finishing lower down the table will qualify for one of two qualification groups depending on their finishing position.

The winners of the two qualification groups will then face a play-off, with the winners joining the top three teams from the Elite group in a semi-final and final to decide the overall winners.

Sunderland's campaign will kick off on August 20 when Kevin Ball's side head to the south coast to face Southampton.