sport news Why next season could be the strangest EVER with no fans and no League Cup

As Premier League officials scramble to resume the season amid the coronavirus crisis, the fate of the 2020-21 campaign appears ever more uncertain.

Last month, all 20 top-flight clubs confirmed their intention to play the 92 games needed to decide the final table, with the title, European spots and relegation places all yet to be confirmed.

The current plan, dubbed 'Project Restart', would see matches played behind closed doors from June 8, with the season completed by the end of July.

The Premier League is gearing up to return to action behind closed doors from June 8

The Premier League is gearing up to return to action behind closed doors from June 8

However, Sportsmail revealed on Thursday that there are growing fears that it will prove impossible to safely start playing matches again, given the logistical nightmare posed by the deadly pandemic.

A number of clubs believe that the most likely outcome will see no clubs relegated and two or three clubs promoted from the Championship, creating a bigger division next season.

That would have a knock-on effect in terms of scheduling, the number of games played by every team and, potentially, the fate of the League Cup.

The 2020-21 campaign is shaping up to be unlike anything we have seen before, with clubs' finances hit hard by the coronavirus, TV broadcasters planning for a season without fans inside stadiums and teams playing away from their home grounds.

Here, Sportsmail takes a closer look at what football could look like when next season eventually kicks off. 

A BIGGER PREMIER LEAGUE

Although top flight officials remain hopeful about restarting the season, it is believed that an alternative solution would be to cancel it and scrap relegation for a year.

Two or three Championship teams would then be promoted based on a merit-based scoring system, in all likelihood points per game, to create a division of 22 or 23 teams next season. 

The move would increase the number of Premier League fixtures from 38 to either 42 or 44, ensuring the packed calendar is stretched to breaking point. 

The 2020-21 season would then see either five or six teams relegated back down to the Championship, rather than the usual three.

Sportsmail understands that the Premier League see this option as a way of closing the door on any incredibly costly legal challenges from clubs unhappy about being denied promotion or resigned to relegation this term.

Championship leaders Leeds could be handed automatic promotion if the season is cancelled

Championship leaders Leeds could be handed automatic promotion if the season is cancelled

NO LEAGUE CUP 

A bigger top-flight may satisfy the majority of clubs currently in and around the bottom three, but it could have dire consequences for the League Cup.

On Thursday Sportsmail revealed that the competition, as well as the FA Cup, would come under intense pressure to go, either permanently or for one season. 

However, with scrapping the FA Cup not seen as a realistic option, getting rid of the League Cup for at least one season has been discussed by top-flight officials.

The increased number of Premier League games is viewed as an opportunity to get dispose of what, to many, is an unnecessary distraction. 

Whether the competition would return for the 2021-22 season is unknown. 

Raheem Sterling (left) and Kevin De Bruyne pose with the League Cup at Wembley on March 1

Raheem Sterling (left) and Kevin De Bruyne pose with the League Cup at Wembley on March 1

STRAIGHT INTO THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

UEFA have given Europe's top leagues the chance to complete their domestic seasons, with the Champions League and Europa League taking a backseat.

Although it is not yet known if the competitions will return in their normal format, it is believed UEFA want both completed by the end of August.

The English teams still in Europe - Manchester City, Chelsea, and Wolves - would likely play all of their remaining knockout games after completing the current Premier League season at the end of July.

How playing a number of European games in August, the month the 2020-21 season is due to start in, affects those teams involved remains to be seen.

They could all find themselves back in European action just a couple weeks after the finals are held too, with opening group stage matches usually scheduled for mid-September.

Liverpool lifted the Champions League on June 1 last year but this year's showpiece is delayed

Liverpool lifted the Champions League on June 1 last year but this year's showpiece is delayed

A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRANSFER WINDOW

Clubs at every level have taken a financial hit during the coronavirus, losing revenue in the form of gate receipts, merchandise sales and sponsorship.

That is likely to have a big effect on the summer transfer window, which appears certain to be pushed back given the current season will finish over two months later than planned, if it finishes at all.

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