Objective: To evaluate whether the presence of cervical funneling or intra-amniotic debris identified in the second trimester is associated with a higher rate of preterm birth (PTB) in asymptomatic nulliparous pregnant women with a midtrimester cervical length (CL) less than 30 mm (i.e. below the 10th percentile). Methods: This was a secondary cohort analysis of data from a multicenter trial in nulliparous women between 16 and 22 weeks' gestation with a singleton gestation and CL less than 30 mm on transvaginal ultrasound, randomized to treatment with either 17-alpha-hydroxyprogesterone caproate or placebo. Sonographers were centrally certified in CL measurement, as well as in identification of intra-amniotic debris and cervical funneling. Univariable and multivariable analysis was performed to assess the associations of cervical funneling and intra-amniotic debris with PTB. Results: Of the 657 women randomized, 112 (17%) had cervical funneling only, 33 (5%) had intra-amniotic debris only and 45 (7%) had both on second-trimester ultrasound. Women with either of these findings had a shorter median CL than those without (21.0 mm vs 26.4 mm; P < 0.001). PTB prior to 37 weeks was more likely in women with cervical funneling (37% vs 21%; odds ratio (OR), 2.2 (95% CI, 1.5–3.3)) or intra-amniotic debris (35% vs 23%; OR, 1.7 (95% CI, 1.1–2.9)). Results were similar for PTB before 34 and before 32 weeks' gestation. After multivariable adjustment that included CL, PTB < 34 and < 32 weeks continued to be associated with the presence of intra-amniotic debris (adjusted OR (aOR), 1.85 (95% CI, 1.00–3.44) and aOR, 2.78 (95% CI, 1.42–5.45), respectively), but not cervical funneling (aOR, 1.17 (95% CI, 0.63–2.17) and aOR, 1.45 (95% CI, 0.71–2.96), respectively). Conclusions: Among asymptomatic nulliparous women with midtrimester CL less than 30 mm, the presence of intra-amniotic debris, but not cervical funneling, is associated with an increased risk for PTB before 34 and 32 weeks' gestation, independently of CL. Copyright © 2017 ISUOG. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.