The Football Association launched The FA Youth Cup in 1952, following the success of The FA County Youth Cup competition which had been set up seven years earlier.
With talented school leavers finding it hard to break immediately into senior football, The Youth Cup was seen as an ideal breeding ground for the football stars of the future.
Initially, many clubs did not have an organised youth structure but today all clubs, both League and non-League, have realised the importance of nurturing future talent. Hence the depth and breadth of the 400-plus entrants.
To qualify for The Youth Cup, teams must play in a Youth League, or equivalent competition, and must be fully integrated within the main structure of the senior club. The players selected must be under 18 at midnight on 31 August in the current season. Players of the calibre of George Best, Paul Gascoigne, David Beckham and Michael Owen have all played in FA Youth Cup-winning sides.
Manchester United have won The Youth Cup a record 10 times, and last lifted the trophy in 2011.
Generally it has been the big clubs with the most sophisticated youth set-ups and advanced recruitment techniques that dominate The Youth Cup’s list of winners. Chelsea have been the pre-eminent force of late, winning five of the last seven Finals.
The highest aggregate score for The Final is the 9-0 thrashing that West Ham United – with Joe Cole and Michael Carrick – handed out to Coventry City in 1999. A full house at Upton Park saw the rampant Young Hammers win the second leg 6-0 before the live Sky cameras.