The League Cup, also known as the EFL Cup and, for now at least, by the sponsored name of Carabao Cup, is undoubtedly the least prestigious of the three major domestic competitions. That said, silverware is silverware and this competition yields the first of the season – Community Shield aside – with the final generally taking place at the end of February.
In the past it has been rather derided as a “Mickey Mouse cup” and it is certainly low on the list of priorities for the top sides that play in the Champions League. That said, once these teams reach the latter stages, even they take it seriously. Moreover, for sides like Spurs, Everton and indeed many clubs in the top flight, whose wait for a trophy has lasted far too long, any silverware is not to be sniffed at.
Whether it is viewed as a hinderance, a rare opportunity to add something to the trophy cabinet, a route into European football, or simply another competition to target, who are the most successful clubs in the history of this competition? It was founded in 1960, since when 23 different clubs have got their hands on the trophy. But which side has won the most League Cups?
Five With Five
Prior to the 2024 EFL Cup final, there are five sides with at least five successes to their name. Spurs and Forest have four each and so don’t quite make our list. Nor do Arsenal, who have lost a record six finals and landed just two League Cups over the years. So who are the five most successful teams in the history of the League Cup?
Joint 5th) Chelsea – 5 Titles
Back in the days when the final was a two-legged affair, Chelsea won the fifth ever edition of the EFL Cup, beating defending champions Leicester 3-2 on aggregate. Since then they have made the final eight times, winning half of those. They triumphed for the second time in 1998, before Roman Abramovich’s billions changed the club completely.
The Russian took over in 2003 and success was quick in coming, the Blues winning the Premier League in 2005 and 2006. In 2005, under Jose Mourinho’s brilliant management, they also added the League Cup, beating Liverpool 3-2 after extra time. In 2007 they saw off Arsenal 2-1, whilst they claimed their fifth and most recent success in 2015, this time beating Spurs (2-0).
Joint 5th) Aston Villa – 5 Titles
Villa, like Chelsea, have won five of the nine finals they have appeared in. The Midlands club also hold the honour of being the first to get their hands on the trophy and bonus marks if you know that Rotherham were the team they beat in 1961. They made the final again two years later but lost to rivals Birmingham, losing in the showpiece again in 1971.
The 1970s were a strong era for the Villans though as they triumphed in 1975 and 1977, against Norwich and Everton respectively. Title number four came in 1994 when they caused a major upset to get the better of a Man United team that were really dominant in the era, winning 3-1 at Wembley. Their most recent success came shortly afterwards in 1996, Leeds the losers this time, going down 3-0.
3rd) Man United – 6 Titles
United may have lost in 1994 but only two teams have won the League Cup more often and only one has appeared in more finals. The Red Devils have won six out of the 10 finals they have appeared in, most recently getting the better of Newcastle United (2-0) in 2023. Before that they won in 2017 against Southampton and in 2010 against Villa.
They did not claim their first League Cup trophy until 1992 when they beat Nottingham Forest 1-0, having lost the final by the same score 12 months earlier against Sheffield Wednesday. The 21st century has seen United do very well in the competition though and in addition to their wins in 2023 and 20017 they also beat Wigan in 2006 and claimed back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010 against Spurs and Villa.
2nd) Man City – 8 Titles
Man City have the best win/loss ratio of any club to have appeared in three or more finals and have done the business eight out of nine times they have reached the decisive game. Their only loss came in 1974, against Wolves, City having claimed their first EFL Cup trophy in 1970 by seeing off West Brom 2-1 after extra time. They added another success in 1976 against Newcastle, winning 2-1.
They had to wait some time for their third victory but since then they have been the dominant force in the League Cup. They beat Sunderland 3-1 in 2014, got past Liverpool thanks to penalties after a 1-1 draw in 2016 and claimed EFL Cup number five two years later against Arsenal (3-0). That was the start of an incredible spell when they won four League Cups on the bounce: in 2019 they beat Chelsea on penalties, in 2020 they beat Villa 2-1 and in 2021 they sneaked past Spurs 1-0.
1st) Liverpool – 9 Titles
Liverpool are the most successful team in the entire 63-year history of the League Cup and they have also made the most appearances in the final, with 13. Like City, they too can boast four titles in a row as well, theirs coming during the golden era in the 1980s, between 1981 and 1984.
1981 saw them win their first League Cup by seeing off West Ham in a replay. 12 months later they needed extra time to get past Spurs 3-1 whilst a year after that they again needed extra time, this time beating Man United 2-1. They made it four on the spin by edging past Everton in a replay at Maine Road, the Toffees never having won the League Cup despite two appearances in the final.
Liverpool then had to wait until 1995 for title number five, earned thanks to a 2-1 win over Bolton. They needed penalties to get past second-tier Birmingham in 2001, whilst lucky number seven came in 2003 against big rivals Man United (2-0). They needed penalties yet again to see off Cardiff in 2012 after the game ended 2-2, whilst spot kicks – and lots of them – were also needed for their most recent success in 2022. That year they drew 0-0 with Chelsea and won 11-10 in a crazy shootout!