The teams, the travelling, the favourites, the outsiders – and Carlisle United’s prospects. A closer look at the League Two line-up for 2024/25…


What will League Two be like next season? It’s a wise person indeed who can answer this with some conviction before the end of May.

At least we can take a look at the line-up and form a few early conclusions about the division to which Carlisle are returning.

A few points can be made even at this stage. One is that the fourth division in 2024/25 is not going to be dominated by a cluster of huge clubs, either in stature or in budget.

As in all divisions these days, there will be tiers within the tier. And United, thanks to their increased spending power, should be on one of the higher ones, for once.

News and Star: What are United's prospects as they try to bounce back from relegation?What are United's prospects as they try to bounce back from relegation? (Image: Richard Parkes)

But this looks, from a distance, to be more than ever a League Two that will reward those who play it smart, and channel momentum, rather than simply flex their financial muscles.

Another point is that, however determined Carlisle are to bounce straight back after relegation, and however much we/they may like the look of 24/25's League Two, there can be no hubris about the Blues – not after the way last season unfolded so insipidly.

The division looks, broadly speaking, even and competitive, and therefore a clear opportunity for a club like United. But they must get so much right.


No Stockport County, no Wrexham. Not even Mansfield Town. The collective resources thrown at promotion by those clubs, either recently or over time, now departs League Two. And thank goodness for that.

Looking at the 24-club roster now, there is only one you’d regard of a size that feels, on some level, out of place in the lower rungs of the EFL.

Alas for Bradford City, they’ve been making a pig’s ear of getting out of League Two for some time now. They remain there on merit.

At some stage, the Bantams, with their substantial five-figure crowds and stadium fit for bigger divisions, will nail it. Perhaps they will in 2024/25.

Yet that can’t be assumed, given the neuroses at Valley Parade last season, a certain antipathy towards the ownership and a frustrating team that only flirted late on with a play-off run, never convincingly. Since then they've recruited early, Stockport promotion winners Antoni Sarcevic and Neill Byrne through the door already.

News and Star: Luke Moyneux and Doncaster should be threats in 2024/25Luke Moyneux and Doncaster should be threats in 2024/25 (Image: PA)

Of Carlisle’s other rivals next season, the eye is drawn to Doncaster Rovers, who spent the second half of last season in remarkable form, only to come up short in the play-off semi-final second leg to Crewe Alexandra.

If Donny can harness that momentum in a fresh season, they look credible contenders. As, you would think, will MK Dons, who were in the promotion picture for most of 2023/24 only to be dismantled by an inspired Crawley Town.

Chesterfield, the National League champions, are the early bookies’ favourites and have already tooled up for League Two with the signing of Paddy Madden: a consummate forward at this level. Such was their unstoppable surge to promotion last term, the refreshed Spireites could take some restraining.

Other clubs are of a size where a challenge should be expected, such as Tranmere Rovers and Notts County. But they finished 16th and 14th respectively last season.

One of them may grow into contenders. As, if the summer of recruitment goes well, may Carlisle. But predicting outcomes even with most of the above is far from easy.


It’s slightly surprising to find Crewe, the beaten play-off finalists, as long as 20/1 for the title next season.

Lee Bell made the Railwaymen a bright and constructive side that kept pace with rivals for most of last term.

A careful rebuild, and Crewe could well fancy their chances again.

News and Star: Crewe came up just short in 2023/24Crewe came up just short in 2023/24 (Image: PA)

Then there are others who were on the fringes of things in 2023/24. Barrow must find renewed energy after a largely fine campaign ended with a belly-flop out of the play-offs.

The Bluebirds were positive contenders for the most part in what was their best Football League season for a long time. The finale, when they dipped out of the top seven on the last weekend, could either cause lasting deflation, or motivate them for a renewed attempt.

AFC Wimbledon hovered around things, never a million miles away, and a shade more consistency could have them firmly in the race. Same as Walsall, who had their moments last season, though not in the end for long enough.

Others may be hoping a little renewal will take them above mediocrity. Mark Bonner’s task is to propel Gillingham, with their American backing (sound familiar?) back to the heights.

Those who flattered to deceive last season, such as Salford City and Swindon Town, will be aiming for better. In the case of big-spending but ever-changing Salford, much better.


There tends to be a basket case most seasons, and 2024/25’s could well be Morecambe given the worrying state of things off the field there.

Currently without a manager or many contracted players amid an ongoing ownership crisis…the Shrimps are 66/1 to win League Two. That, though, appears the least of their concerns.

Simply surviving, in the circumstances, may be victory enough.

News and Star: Morecambe have off-field problemsMorecambe have off-field problems (Image: PA)

The new season will be new ground for Bromley, who performed with great character in coming through the National League play-offs.

Very few come up and go straight back down. The Ravens won’t be anyone’s tip for another promotion but they rise with good feeling and momentum, a strong home record (although the artificial pitch now needs to be replaced by grass) and a manager (Andy Woodman) who has worked wonders.

Colchester United, consistent strugglers of late, are relying on the energy of the Cowleys to bring something better. Given a full run at it, the brothers should make the Essex club more competitive, at least.

Newport County, who toyed with better things at times, finished last season badly and need a skilful summer to avoid more struggle setting in, though there is hope of brighter days since Huw Jenkins' takeover.

Accrington Stanley have a squad that looks capable in parts but how they move on, long-term, in the post-John Coleman era is an unknown. Grimsby Town, fourth bottom last season, do not look like challengers. Then again, nor did Crawley 12 months ago.

Then there are our old friends Harrogate Town, who managed to sell a coveted striker (a certain Luke Armstrong) last season yet still improve. Simon Weaver’s side coupled some big wins with big defeats to sit where that pattern ought to put a team: 13th.

The Sulphurites are, at least, well established at this level now, and a dangerous pothole for any supposedly bigger side who reckon it’ll be an easy ride.


In a shorter campaign of travelling overall, Carlisle still have a few long missions to prepare for.

Gillingham, where they’ve failed to win since 1994, is the longest at 335.1 miles. A first ever visit to Bromley’s Hayes Lane is next at 330 miles.

News and Star: Gillingham will be the furthest destination for United in 2024/25Gillingham will be the furthest destination for United in 2024/25 (Image: PA)

Wimbledon, Colchester, Newport and Swindon will also entail early starts for the Blue Army. MK Dons and Cheltenham are in that category too.

Thankfully, things get a sight more accessible after that…


The easiest season for travelling for some years brings a number of relatively close trips for United.

Three of them come in an under 100 miles: Morecambe (the shortest at 69.9 miles), Barrow and Fleetwood.

News and Star: Another short trip to Fleetwood features in a more northern League Two next seasonAnother short trip to Fleetwood features in a more northern League Two next season (Image: Richard Parkes)

Others in convenient range include Accrington, Bradford, Harrogate, Salford, Tranmere and Doncaster. The likes of Crewe and Port Vale aren’t the most awkward to reach either.

Carlisle will still spend more time on the road than the majority of their rivals. So there isn’t an obvious advantage overall.

But nor is there that familiar feeling from recent years that every other weekend is a long one. Mentally and physically, there should be some benefit from that.


Hello again, Bradford. Nice to see you again. The Bantams, who United will face again after 2023’s play-off epic, haven’t won at Brunton Park since 1985.

They will fancy doing so next season, and rubbing it in against the side that killed their dream a year ago. Just as United’s fans would no doubt relish a few more bragging rights and Ben Barclay memes against the Bantams.

News and Star: Back to Barrow for the Blue Army in 2024/25...Back to Barrow for the Blue Army in 2024/25... (Image: Richard Parkes)

Hello again too, Barrow. A couple more “derbies” for the calendar, then. They will see the Bluebirds try to beat the Blues in league football for the first time since the former returned to the EFL after their 48-year absence.

Carlisle, who have kept their south Cumbrian cousins largely at heel in that period, can delight their fans by doing so again. Either way, expect lots of wholesome joshing between rivals fans.


Take your pick, really, at this stage. It does look an open division without an obvious favourite.

As such, it need not hold fears for United. But the dangers of downward momentum are still clear and present, and it’s never wise to go down into League Two with too much work to do in order to retrieve some identity.

If Carlisle return to action still in a state of uncertainty, the fourth tier could be hostile. If they recruit well, pre-season well and set about things from August in newly-confident shape, it’s not unrealistic to think of them challenging.

Expectation will sit on their shoulders. Many will see their budget as an asset. Yet that (Bradford, Salford) isn’t the promotion ticket alone. The rebuilt Blues must tick more boxes than that, as they step towards 2024/25.