Hartlepool United will face neighbours Sunderland in the opening round of the Football League Trophy after the Black Cats confirmed their participation in the competition.
The revamped Trophy has caused controversy after Premier League Under-23 sides have been invited to participate for the first time alongside League One and League Two outfits.
Six of the 16 top flight clubs invited have rejected the offer but Sunderland will take part, with Andy Welsh’s side drawn against Rochdale, Pools and Notts County in the group stages.
Sunderland, who will have to field six players who are 23 or under in their starting XI, will play one of their three group games at the Stadium of Light, which means Pools face a potential second visit to the ground having played the Cats in January 2004 in the FA Cup.
The first group games will take place on Tuesday, September 27.