MANCHESTER, England (AP) — While Premier League giants Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal do not yet know if they will advance to the quarterfinals of the English League Cup, third-division Port Vale has already secured its place in the next round.
The Midlands-based team has never played higher than the second tier of English soccer and has never won one of its major trophies.
But it could be rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest teams in the land in the last eight of the cup after a 1-0 win against Mansfield on Tuesday. Alfie Devine's goal five minutes into the second half at One Call Stadium ended fourth-division Mansfield's own hopes of a potential quarterfinals matchup against top-flight opposition.
Port Vale will not be the only team from outside the Premier League in the next round after Middlesbrough came back to beat third-division Exeter 3-2.
Middlesbrough won the League Cup in 2004 and is hoping to secure promotion to the Premier League this season under manager Michael Carrick, who lifted every major club prize during a storied playing career at Manchester United.
But Port Vale is turning out to be the story of the competition so far as the lowest-ranked team remaining and having advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time in its history.
Its fans will likely be hoping to be drawn against the likes of United or Liverpool if those teams advance Wednesday.
Defending champion United hosts Newcastle at Old Trafford, with manager Erik ten Hag coming under increasing pressure to turn his team's form around after seven defeats in all competitions this season.
Liverpool travels to Bournemouth, while West Ham hosts Arsenal.
With Chelsea, Everton, Burnley and Fulham also still vying to advance, there is every chance Port Vale could face top-flight opposition in the next round.
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James Robson, The Associated Press