Rangers are the Challenge Cup holders but will not play next season after their promotion

The Scottish Challenge Cup is being expanded to include teams from Wales and Northern Ireland from season 2016-17, following approval from Uefa.

The tournament for teams outside the top flight will also include an under-20s side from each Scottish Premiership club in the first round.

Four teams from the Highland League and four from the Lowland League will also enter at that stage in August.

Two Welsh sides and two from Northern Ireland enter the last 16 in October.

It is expected these will be the top two from the Welsh Premier League and Northern Ireland Football League, meaning places for The New Saints and Bala Town and Crusaders and Linfield.

One Welsh side and one from Northern Ireland will be guaranteed a home tie.

Draws will be regionalised throughout the competition and seeded for the first three rounds, with the final to be played in March.

“We are very pleased to be supported by Uefa in delivering an element of cross-border competition through the invitation to our colleagues in Northern Ireland and Wales,” said Scottish Professional Football League chief executive Neil Doncaster.

The SPFL say the majority of fixtures will take place during international weekends, while BBC ALBA, S4C and Premier Sports will all show live matches.

Championship winners Rangers lifted the trophy last season, beating Peterhead in the final at Hampden.

Powered By | Full Text RSS Feed

Eric Bailly played 35 league games for Villarreal

Manchester United have completed the signing of Villarreal defender Eric Bailly, subject to a work permit.

The 22-year-old Ivory Coast international joins for about £30m on a four-year deal.

Bailly said: “It is a dream come true to be joining Manchester United. To play football at the highest level is all I have ever wanted to do.”

United manager Jose Mourinho said: “Eric has the potential to become one of the best around.”

Bailly has played 40 times in La Liga, the first five games being for Espanyol.

He joined Villarreal for £4.4m in January 2015 and played in every match as Ivory Coast won the Africa Cup of Nations just weeks later.

Bailly is Mourinho’s first signing at Old Trafford, with the club also tipped to complete the acquisition of Paris St-Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Bailly said: “It is a confidence boost that a manager with so much experience of English football has trusted in me by making me his first signing.

“English football has a different style to Spanish football. It’s more physical and more direct as well. I have always thought it would suit my style of football.”

Powered By | Full Text RSS Feed

Eric Bailly made his debut for the Ivory Coast in 2015

Villarreal central defender Eric Bailly is set to be Jose Mourinho’s first signing as Manchester United manager.

Bailly is due to have a medical this week and terms are thought to have been agreed with the 22-year-old, who will cost the Red Devils about £30m.

He has played 40 times in La Liga, the first five of which were for Espanyol.

Bailly joined Villarreal for £4.4m in January 2015 and played in every game as Ivory Coast won the Africa Cup of Nations just weeks later.

It had been thought Zlatan Ibrahimovic would be Mourinho’s first signing since the Portuguese succeeded Louis van Gaal as United manager.

The Sweden striker, 34, is a free agent after leaving Paris St-Germain and hinted at the weekend he would make an announcement about his future on Tuesday.

But he has refused to elaborate, saying: “There is no confirmation. Keep wondering. I am enjoying the stories.”

Analysis – Spanish football expert Andy West

Bailly’s reputation has soared this season, which saw him play a key role as Villarreal sealed Champions League qualification, and it’s no surprise to see him make a big-money move this summer.

His prime asset is his extremely impressive physical presence, with his powerful aerial ability complimenting his pace and strength in the tackle.

The brave and determined 22-year-old has less than 50 league games under his belt, though, so United fans should perhaps not expect him to immediately become an automatic starter.

He can sometimes concede possession in dangerous areas by making bad decisions, and he doesn’t always show composure under pressure, but Bailly possesses all the physical tools and the rest should come with more experience.

Subscribe to the BBC Sport newsletter to get our pick of news, features and video sent to your inbox.

Powered By | Full Text RSS Feed