Do Carabao Cup winners qualify for Europa League? League Cup finalists and champions prizes explained


We’re now down to four teams in this year’s edition of the Carabao Cup with teams just two matches away from a trip to Wembley.

Southampton stunned eight-time winners Manchester City with a deserved 2-0 victory at St Mary’s. Nathan Jones’ side will face Newcastle in their two-legged semifinal. They trail by a single goal from the first leg.

Manchester United saw off League One Charlton Athletic 3-0 thanks to a late Marcus Rashford brace and will take on Nottingham Forest, who prevailed on penalties against Wolves at the City Ground. The Red Devils won by the same scoreline at the City Ground to take charge of their semifinal.

But what prize awaits the winners, other than the famous three-handled trophy.

MORE: Carabao Cup semifinal schedule and results

Do Carabao Cup winners qualify for Europa League? 

The winners of the Carabao Cup earn a place in the playoff round of the Europa Conference League, although this can be overridden depending whether their finishing place in the Premier League pushes them into a superior continental competition.

If the Carabao Cup winners also finish in the top four of the Premier League — something that has been the case in every season since 2017 — they will automatically qualify for the UEFA Champions League. If the Carabao Cup winner comes in fifth place, they are automatically entered directly to the Europa League group stage.

In the above cases, the Europa Conference League playoff place awarded to the Carabao Cup winner will then be passed on to the highest-placed team in the Premier League not already qualified for the Champions League or Europa League (sixth- or seventh-place). 

The UEFA Europa League trophy

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What do Carabao Cup runners-up qualify for? 

The Carabao Cup runners-up do not qualify for any UEFA competitions.

The losing team in the Carabao Cup final has only one way to qualify for European competition: via their finish in the Premier League.

It’s worth noting that if the domestic cup winners in England each finish inside the Premier League top five — as was the case when second-placed Liverpool won both the Carabao and FA Cups in 2022/23 — then the Europa League and Conference League places that come with winning those trophies are awarded to the next-best Premier League finishers in sixth or seventh place.

If the FA Cup winner also finishes in the top five, the Europa League berth that comes with winning the FA Cup goes to the sixth-place Premier League team.

If the Carabao Cup winner finishes in the top five, that means the Europa Conference League playoff berth that comes with winning the trophy will be transferred to the next highest Premier League team not already qualified to European competition (in sixth or seventh place).

What is the Carabao Cup prize money? 

In 2021/22, the Carabao Cup winners were awarded £100,000, with the runners-up pocketing £50,000.

This amounts to small change when compared to the sums on offer for Premier League finishing spots and it is also considerably less than what teams can win in the FA Cup.

Each team that progressed from the 32 third-round ties won £105,000, with prize money increasing for each round after that.

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Lowest-ranked teams to win the League Cup 

During the competition’s maiden decade in the 1960s, there were two instances of clubs from the third tier beating top division clubs in the final. In 1967, Queens Park Rangers came from 2-0 down to beat holders West Brom 3-2, while two years later Swindon Town stunned Arsenal on a bog of a Wembley pitch 3-1.

There has been nothing to match those heroics in the modern day, although League Two Bradford City completed an astonishing run to the 2013 final despite operating in the fourth tier of English football. The Bantams were beaten 4-0 in the final by Swansea City, then in the Premier League.

The advent of squad rotation in the 1990s — Alex Ferguson’s decision to field a youthful Manchester United side that was dispatched by York City famously prompted questions in Parliament — opened up opportunities for sides not always synonymous with winning major honours.

Leicester City were winners in 1997 and 2000, beating lower-league opposition in the form of Tranmere Rovers in the latter final, while the Foxes were beaten finalists in 1999. Middlesbrough lost the 1997 and 1998 finals before Gareth Southgate (below) captained them to glory in 2004 with a 2-1 win over Bolton Wanderers.

Gareth Southgate

Boro then embarked upon a run to the last 16 of the UEFA Cup in 2004/05, reaching the final the following season. Other unheralded League Cup winners have not made the same impression in Europe.

Birmingham stunned Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final but did not get out of the Europa League group stage the following season, albeit having been relegated from the Premier League in the meantime. Swansea fared slightly better in 2013/14, emerging from their group before losing to Napoli in the first knockout round.

If squad rotation opened the door to surprise winners at one point, the ever-increasing wealth and squad depth of the Premier League’s heavyweights has since all but closed it. In the decade since Swansea beat Bradford, the cup has gone to members of the ‘big six’, with Manchester City winning six times during this period and Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool claiming one apiece.

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