The Football Association Youth Challenge Cup is an English Football competition run by the Football Association for under-18 sides. Only those players between the age of 15 and 18 on 31 August of the current season are eligible to take part. These days it is dominated by the youth sides of professional teams, mostly from the Premier League but attracts well over 400 entrants from throughout the country.
At the end of the Second World War the FA organised a Youth Championship for County Associations considering it the best way to stimulate the game among those youngsters not yet old enough to play senior football. The matches did not attract large crowds but outstanding players were selected for Youth Internationals and thousands were given the chance to play in a national contest for the first time. In 1951 it was realised that a competition for clubs would probably have a wider appeal. The FA Youth Challenge Cup (1952–53 season) was restricted to the youth teams of clubs, both professional and amateur, who were members of the FA.
The notion of a youth cup was thought of by Sir Joe Richards, the late President of the Football League. He initially put forward the idea to the league clubs but they were not enthused; Richards then took the idea to the Football Association, who liked the idea and created the competition in the same year. The Youth Cup trophy itself was purchased by the Football League However, they never found a use for it. Football League secretary Fred Howarth found the trophy in a cupboard at the Starkie Street office and handed it over to the Football Association.
Manchester United are the competition’s most successful club, winning it ten times. The current holders are Aston Villa who defeated Liverpool 2–1 in the 2021 final.