Getty ImagesLast week Liverpool managed to progress past the third round of the League Cup for the first time in three years. Having lost their previous four games in the competition, including both legs of the 2016/17 semi-final against Southampton, they managed to defeat MK Dons in Milton Keynes, and it was a win that will help them move forward in a number of ways.The League Cup is a competition in which many clubs have a reputation for turning to youth or reserve players in order to give their first-team regulars a break, but for teams like Liverpool this isn’t merely a way to rest their stars, it’s an opportunity to further improve the young players selected and enhance one of its less discussed recruitment strategies.Under the guidance of Jürgen Klopp, Liverpool has once again become a European powerhouse, reaching two Champions League finals in two years on top of a Europa League final appearance in the German’s first season on Merseyside.Last season’s victory in Madrid against Tottenham Hotspur brought Liverpool its sixth European Cup, making it the third most successful side in what is arguably the world’s biggest continental competition.The knock-on effect of this is that there are very few players in world soccer who wouldn’t want to join Liverpool, where they would be working with one of the best head coaches around while also having the chance to win the sport’s biggest honors.With Liverpool now closer than ever to winning its first league title in 29 years, there is also the opportunity for players to write their names in modern-day club folklore. One of its marketing slogans reads “this means more”, and for a side who have waited for so long to finish at the top of the pile, it’s a fairly accurate statement when it comes to winning the Premier League.But despite the pull it now has in the global game, during the most recent transfer window Liverpool chose not to sign a single senior outfield player. This left many fans disappointed as they saw the Champions League win as an opportunity to build from a position of strength and attract some of the top names in world soccer. And Liverpool has broken the bank for established names in the past – goalkeeper Alisson and center-back Virgil van Dijk being the prime examples – but they very rarely splash the cash if a big sale has not been made previously. Even a Champions League win didn’t change that.What fans did witness this summer was a clearer look at one of Liverpool’s other recruitment strategies, and it’s here where progress in the domestic cups becomes important. LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 19: Tino Anjorin of Chelsea is tackled by Sepp Van Den Berg of Liverpool … [+] during the Premier League 2 match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on August 19, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)Getty ImagesThis other strategy combines the strength of its youth academy with the skills of its recruitment team. A handful of the best young players from around the world are brought in to play for the club’s U18s or U23s, with the very real possibility that they could soon be playing first-team soccer for one of the world’s biggest clubs.Liverpool’s relatively thin but close-knit roster provides an incentive for these young players. If they impress in the reserve and youth sides and one of those first-teamers needs a break or suffers an injury, there is the chance they will be called upon to step into the first teamThe League Cup provides valuable experience for these players. They are able to experience senior soccer in higher profile competitions, often against wily, experienced pros, often from the lower leagues.The game against MK Dons featured summer signings Harvey Elliott and Sepp van den Berg, as well as other youth players such as Curtis Jones, Caoimhín Kelleher, Ki-Jana Hoever, and Rhian Brewster.Hoever managed to get his name on the scoresheet, while Elliott was hugely impressive from his attacking position on the right-wing. It was only one game, but it was invaluable for these players.But if the club are knocked out of the domestic cups in the early rounds, it can leave these young players in limbo, waiting for a chance in the first team but not fully prepared once it arrives.It’s for this reason that cup runs can be a vital part of this particular recruitment strategy.If Liverpool fall out of the cups early on, these players usually need to be shipped out on loan in the January transfer window so they can continue their development and experience senior, first-team soccer. If they are restricted to reserve soccer, their progress can stall, their career can stagnate, and their profiles drop.Loan moves are not always guaranteed to work out, either. Even though Liverpool does have plans in place to find the right clubs for these players, where they are likely to get minutes on the pitch, this isn’t always the case.MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 25: Harvey Elliott of Liverpool controls the ball while in the … [+] air during the Carabao Cup Third Round match between Milton Keynes Dons and Liverpool FC at Stadium MK on September 25, 2019 in Milton Keynes, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)Getty ImagesThe League Cup can be seen as a distraction, but for Liverpool, it could play a big part in their back-up plan. They don’t have the depth of English champions Manchester City, and when given the opportunity to get some way towards matching that this summer, they chose a different route.It would be a surprise if there were no big signings next summer, and it could be said that signing many of their best players to new contracts in recent times is as good, if not better, than regularly spending big money on new players due to a high turnover, but who’s to say next time there is a big sale, the replacement won’t be one of these young recruits?For this to happen, these players need to first be able to show what they can do, and for this to happen, Liverpool needs to go far in the domestic cups. Another piece of silverware in the cabinet on the back of Klopp’s revolution wouldn’t go amiss, either.



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