- The Champions League and Europa League are expanding to 36 teams next term
- FIFA are also set to shake-up the September and October international breaks
- Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast ‘It’s All Coming Up!’
English football’s calendar reforms are expected to see replays in the third and fourth rounds of the FA Cup scrapped, according to reports.
With European continental competitions expanding as of next season following a change to the group stage format, the already congested fixture schedule had threatened to become more packed still.
The Champions League, for example, will as of 2024-25 see 36 teams compete rather than the existing 32, with the new ‘league phase’ lasting 10 weeks – four more than the current format.
As such, greater pressure was set to begin to build around the domestic calendar with Football League clubs playing in two different major cup tournaments in addition to league football.
Now, reports have emerged that as well as losing replays in the third and fourth rounds of the FA Cup, the fifth round could move to a weekend slot and the Carabao Cup could change to a one-legged semi-final format.
The third and fourth round FA Cup replays could be scrapped in a new reform of the English football calendar
UEFA club competitions are expanding from next season with a new ‘league phase’ replacing the existing group stage
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It is unclear when the potential changes could take place, although a new TV deal is due to be agreed from 2025-26.
As well as UEFA competition changes, there will also be a different international break format from 2025-26.
Rather than stop in both September and October for four games, nations are set to take part in a 16-day flurry of four games on international duty.
That would then theoretically provide 12 ‘spare’ midweek slots for domestic football to take place, in order to avoid an unwanted clash with European competitions.
Midweek slots are needed to rearrange games that are forced to be rescheduled due to clashes with cup games played on the weekend already, highlighting how little room there is for matches in the current format.
The BBC has reported that the solution to finding more space will be to sacrifice the replays for round three and four of the FA Cup and lose one leg of the Carabao Cup semis, as well as move the FA Cup fifth round to the weekend.
In the four-year cycle beginning in 2025, the Premier League has already offered up five midweek rounds of fixtures to broadcasters, one up from the current offering.
The loss of replays is sure to be felt should it materialise, with numerous teams lower down the pyramid earning the right to travel to iconic arenas such as Anfield or Old Trafford after successfully keeping the so-called bigger teams at bay at home.
The Champions League will move to accommodate 36 teams – four more than the current format – from next term