Professional Development League format explained as Leeds United bid for glory in play-off final v Birmingham City

Leeds United's Under-23s take on Birmingham City in the Professional Development League national play-off final on Monday lunchtime - but how does the league system work?

Leeds United Under-23s.
Leeds United Under-23s.

The Whites have earned a spot in the PDL play-off final with Carlos Corberan's side aiming to become national champions.

United welcome the Blues to LS11 on Monday lunchtime (May 6) with kick-off set for 12:30pm - entry is free for supporters at Elland Road via the West Stand.

Here's everything you need to know about the PDL format:

How does the Under-23s league system work?

In 2012 a new Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) system was introduced for Premier League and Football League academies in England.

Each academy was given a category status from 1-4 based on the following criteria:

"Up to 10 different factors will be considered in the grading, including productivity rates; training facilities; and coaching, education and welfare provisions."

The EPPP was introduced in a bid to produce more homegrown players.

Following its arrival a new league system was put in place which is now formatted as Premier League 2 (PL2) and the Professional Development League (PDL).

Category one clubs were entered into the PL2 and split into two divisions with promotion and relegation while category two academies were split into two north and south divisions.

The Central League - a reserve league - also remained in place for several Football League teams with lower rated academies (three and four).

Why are Leeds in the Professional Development League?

Leeds were handed Category two status in the EPPP system and therefore compete in the Professional Development League.

Which teams compete in the Professional Development League?

Northern section - Barnsley, Birmingham City, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Crewe Alexandra, Hull City, Leeds United, Nottingham Forest, Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday.

Southern section - Bristol City, Cardiff City, Charlton Athletic, Colchester United, Coventry City, Crystal Palace, Ipswich Town, Millwall, Queens Park Rangers, Watford.

How does the Professional Development League work?

The Professional Development League is split into two divisions of 10 teams of category two rated academies - north and south.

Each team plays the opponents in their own division home and away.

They then also play teams from the opposing section once - which could be either home or away - to make up a 28-game season.

A league winners trophy is handed out to the victors of each section before an end of season play-off is held to determine the overall winners.

Play-off format:


A - PDL North winners v PDL South runners-up

B - PDL South winners v PDL North runners-up

National final:

Winner A v Winner B

This year North winners Leeds faced South runners-up Coventry City in the semi-finals of the play-offs while North runners-up Birmingham City travelled to South winners Ipswich Town.

United defeated the Sky Blues in dramatic fashion with a 3-2 victory in extra-time while Birmingham made easy work of Town at Portman Road winning 3-0 to set-up a clash for the title between the Whites and the Blues.

Leeds earned the right to host the national play-off final after being drawn out ahead of the semi-final fixtures - which will now take place at Elland Road on Monday (May 6) at 12:30pm.

Will the winners of the Professional Development League national final be promoted?

Simply put, no. It will just be the Professional Development League trophy and bragging rights on the line at Elland Road.

For any team to move between the PL2 or PDL an academies status would have to be regraded under the EPPP criteria.