The Scottish Professional Football League season is set to kick off with the first round of 2017/18 Scottish League Cup (otherwise known as the Betfred Cup) fixtures. The tournament will be contested by Scotland’s top 44 teams, beginning on July 15th 2017.
The tournament will start with a group stage, which will see eight groups of five teams face off against each other for a place in the knockout rounds. These fixtures will take place throughout the month, with matches scheduled for July 15th, 19th, 22nd, 26th and 29th. However, not all 44 teams will be present.
The four Scottish Premiership teams competing in the Champions League and Europa League will be excluded from the group stage. Instead, they will join their fellow teams in the knockout round, beginning in August.
In total, 16 teams will make it through to the knockout stages - the winner from each group, the four best placed runner-ups and the four Scottish Premiership sides present in European competition. The knockout phase will start at the Round of 16, with the final set to be played in November 2017.
Interestingly, SPFL bosses have decided to mix things up by changing the number of points gained for a drawn match during the group stage. Instead of each side receiving one point each, a penalty shootout will be played and the winner will take two points, while the losing side will take just one.
Of course, there are a number of elite sides in Scottish football that are likely to be present in the later rounds once again next season, but which teams are most likely to clinch the title?
You cannot look beyond Celtic for any trophy currently available in Scottish football. They have dominated the Scottish Premiership for some time and have impressively managed to step it up a gear under Brendan Rodgers.
They will be at the top of the list to win every trophy on offer next term and, having won the Scottish League Cup last season, they could become the first team to retain the cup since they last did it back in 1990/2000 and 2000/01.
Rangers are having a tough time of catching up to Celtic in the Scottish Premiership, but they have a much better chance of toppling their biggest rivals in the cup competitions.
They came agonisingly close last term, losing to Rangers in the semi-final stage in a game that was decided by a single goal. But, with the right man in charge, the club could add another Scottish League Cup trophy to their record haul of 27 victories.
Aberdeen were destroyed by Celtic in the 2016/17 Scottish League Cup final, suffering a disappointing 3-0 defeat to bring their cup run to a sudden end.
They will know full well that, should they make it to the final again next season, a tie against Celtic will likely await them once again. Winning the tournament will be extremely tough, but the best thing that they can do is ensure that they’re still in the mix come November.