DERBY County's Academy has been awarded category one status – the highest ranking for Academy set-ups under the Premier League's Elite Players Performance Plan introduced two years ago.
Derby had previously been operating at category two status, but were re-audited earlier this year and achieved the relevant requirements to become only the sixth Championship club to gain the youth set-up award.
Up to ten different factors are considered in the grading, including productivity rates; training facilities; and coaching, education and welfare provisions.
The likes of England Under-21 international Will Hughes and Republic of Ireland international Jeff Hendrick have graduated through the youth set-up, as well as the Football League's Championship Scholar of the Year, Mason Bennett.
As well as the day-to-day running, the club has had to invest heavily in its infrastructure and is currently close to completing the installation of state of the art artificial and grass training pitches, along with floodlights.
The benefits of category one status include the ability to recruit players from further afield, while Derby's Under 21, 18 & 16 sides will now compete in the Premier League of their respective age groups.
This will mean they will be competing at the same level of the Premier League's heavyweights, such as Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal.
Chief executive Sam Rush said: "This is tremendous news for Derby County and a wonderful accolade for the club.
"Our Academy manager Darren Wassall and his team deserve enormous credit for all their hard work over many years and they will now be rewarded by playing matches against the best teams in the country."