The Carabao Cup, currently known as the Carabao Energy Drink for sponsorship reasons, is an annual knockout football competition in men’s English football organized by the English Football League (EFL). It is open to any club within the top four levels of the English football league system – 92 clubs in total – comprising the top level Premier League, and the three divisions of the English Football League’s own league competition. First held in 1960–61 as the Football League Cup, it is one of the three top-tier domestic football competitions in England, alongside the Premier League and FA Cup.
Brief History of the Carabao Cup
The history of the Carabao Cup goes back to 1960 when the competition was established by the Football League as a secondary cup competition. The first Carabao Cup final was played in 1961 and was won by Aston Villa who defeated Rotherham United 3-2 over two legs. In the initial years, the competition struggled to capture the imagination of fans and clubs. Top division clubs often fielded weakened teams. But over the years, the competition grew in stature. With UEFA sanctioning the winners to qualify for the UEFA Cup (now Europa League), top clubs started taking it more seriously.
The Carabao Cup has had multiple sponsors over the years. It started off as the Football League Cup from 1960 to 1981. Between 1982 and 1986, it was sponsored by different brands like the Milk Cup and the Littlewoods Challenge Cup. From 1987 to 1998, it was known as the Zenith Data Systems Cup and the Coca-Cola Cup. From 2003 to 2012, it was called the Carling Cup due to sponsorship from Carling. The energy drink Carabao started sponsoring the competition in 2017 and lending its name.
The Carabao Cup is played as a straight knockout tournament throughout with single-legged ties and the exception of the semi-finals. The competition begins in August with the first round featuring the lowest ranked 72 Football League clubs. Premier League clubs enter the fray in the third round along with Championship clubs. The winners of the semi-finals play the final at Wembley stadium in February.
Clubs with Most Carabao Cup Titles
Since the competition’s inception in 1960, the Carabao Cup has been won by 22 different clubs. However, most of the titles have been concentrated among a handful of clubs.
Liverpool is the club with the most Carabao Cup titles having lifted the trophy on nine occasions. Their first triumph came in 1981 when they beat West Ham United in a replay after the final at Wembley had ended level. Liverpool had to wait until 2012 for their next League Cup success which kickstarted a golden run for them. They won four titles in a decade between 2012 and 2022 under managers Kenny Dalglish, Brendan Rodgers and Jurgen Klopp.
Manchester City are hot on the heels of Liverpool with eight League Cup wins, including four in a row from 2018 to 2021 under Pep Guardiola. Their first triumph was in 1970 while the recent domination has come on the back of heavy investment from their Abu Dhabi owners.
Aston Villa won five League Cup titles between 1961 and 1996 to be joint third in the all-time list alongside Chelsea who have all their triumphs between 2005 and 2015.
Manchester United have lifted the trophy five times but their last success came back in 2010. Tottenham Hotspur have four League Cup titles but the last of those came in 2008.
Arsenal, Nottingham Forest and Leicester City have three League Cup titles each. Of the remaining clubs, only Birmingham City and Wolverhampton Wanderers have won the competition more than once with two titles each.
Complete List of Carabao Cup Winners
Here is the complete season-by-season list of Carabao Cup winners since the competition’s inception in 1960-61:
|West Bromwich Albion
|Queens Park Rangers
- Liverpool have won the Carabao Cup a record 9 times.
- Manchester City are second with 8 titles including 4 consecutive wins from 2018 to 2021.
- Aston Villa and Chelsea are joint third with 5 League Cup wins each.
- The competition was established by the Football League in 1960 as the Football League Cup.
- It is open to the top 92 clubs in the English league system.
- The first winners were Aston Villa in 1961 beating Rotherham United.
- 22 different clubs have won the League Cup over the years.
- Liverpool and Manchester City have dominated in the modern era.
While over 20 clubs have won the Carabao Cup over its 60-year history, Liverpool and Manchester City have emerged as the most successful clubs in the competition in the modern era. Liverpool laid the early foundations in the 1980s by winning four straight titles under Bob Paisley. Manchester City have since taken over the mantle under the ownership of the Abu Dhabi group, winning 6 of the last 10 editions of the tournament. City’s four consecutive triumphs from 2018 to 2021 under Pep Guardiola is a record. With both clubs now firmly established as England’s pre-eminent forces, the League Cup looks set to remain a two-horse race for years to come.