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PL2 Action: Stoke and West Ham United draw as U23s clash at London Stadium

With Division 2 playoffs looming, three players from the Hammer first team play for PL2 side

West Ham United v Arsenal - Premier League Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

Edimilson’s fine touch early in the match proved to be the point saving effort the PL2 Hammers needed. West Ham United dominated much of the first half, looking like the better side, until Declan Rice committed an ill-fated error in the box, resulting in a penalty. A powerful blow glanced passed a diving Nathan Trott to level the match at one. That proved to be the final score, with each side deserving of the point.

It was certainly a strange day to see three players that usually show up for first team match day, pop up in the starting XI for West Ham United’s PL2 side. Of course, almost immediately, speculation swirled around Ashley Fletcher, Edimilson Fernandes, and Arthur Masuaku. Like most things, however, the truth is much simpler than that.

Social media began the day with the rumblings regarding Ashley Fletcher’s placement on Slaven Bilic’s totem pole, with Jonathan Calleri currently seeing more pitch time. While true, there are other mitigating factors leading up to the bolstering of the PL2 side. Currently, West Ham sits fifth on the table, only two points behind Newcastle United, and four points clear of Blackburn Rovers. Why would anyone care about the Premier League 2 playoffs? Good question!

Premier League 2 has recently been reformatted to two divisions, Division 1 & Division 2, each comprising of 12 teams. These 24 teams are made up of 15 clubs from the Premier League and 9 clubs from the Championship. Division 1 is the better, more competitive division of the two. West Ham United are in the Division 2 class and desperately look to break into Division 1 status. Here are the finer points of the competition:

  • There are 12 teams in Division 1 and 12 in Division 2, with every club playing each other once at home and once away
  • In Division 1, the team who finish first are champions
  • The bottom two teams in Division 1 get relegated to Division 2
  • In Division 2, the league winners get automatic promotion to Division 1
  • Teams ranked second, third, fourth and fifth go into a promotion play-off
  • Second plays fifth place at home and third hosts fourth in the semi-finals, both at the club’s main stadium, while the final takes place at the home ground of the team who finished highest in the league
  • All play-off matches are one-off ties, decided by extra-time and then penalties if the match is level after 120 minutes
  • There is no relegation from Division 2

Remember, the whole point of this restructuring is to give teams the opportunity to get their home grown players more playing time. Richard Scudamore explains the motivation:

"We are always trying to develop more and better home grown players, with a record 67 making their debut last season," said Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore. "The hardest part for players is the transition period from development football to the first team. Premier League 2 is structured to give players the optimum opportunity to get to the Premier League through more competitive and meaningful game time.

With only three matches remaining, this could explain West Ham United shipping their under 23 stars down to the reserves for these last important fixtures. I expect we will be seeing more of this through the end of April, as West Ham look to secure a playoff spot for promotion.