The FA Cup Explained
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The FA Cup is the most famous football tournament in England and is watched by millions of fans all across the world. The tournament is unique because a lot of teams take part in the competition, ranging from non-league sides to teams at the very top level of English football. It was first held during the 1871/72 season making it the oldest tournament affiliated with a football association in the world.
The first edition of the tournament involved 15 teams who took part with Wanderers Football Club emerging victorious among the participating teams. In its 128 year history, no other club has won the cup more times than Arsenal FC who have won it a record 13 times followed by Manchester United who has done it 12 times.
The Working Format
The criteria of the tournament had not changed much since 1889 when qualifying rounds were designed and implemented for the teams playing outside the Football League. The competition usually starts in August where the non-league sides and amateur teams begin. The teams playing within the Football League, however, have their slots in the competition cemented and usually start their campaign during the third round in January.
The 128 teams that make it into the first round battle it out in a straight knockout format. The winner proceeds to the next round where they will face another team depending on the team they are drawn against. The draw is usually broadcast live on TV and decides which team plays away or at their respective home stadiums.
Aside from winning a 90-minute match to knock out the opponent, to advance to the next round, a team can play out a draw, and a replay will be played about ten days after the first game, with the opposing side hosting the return match.
Many replays would be set up until a winner is found after 90 minutes, as well as the final. However, modern times has seen this stipulation altered in that if a winner is not found after a replay, extra time will proceed to crown a winner, and if it goes even further a penalty shootout.
The semi-final and the finals are the only stages of the competition that do not feature replays. Both semi-finals, as well as the final, are played on Wembley as has been the tradition apart from the years between 2001 and 2006 when the event was pushed to Millennium Stadium to accommodate renovations at Wembley.
The Beauty Of The FA Cup
People usually say that the FA Cup has a unique beauty to it that cannot be found in other footballing tournaments. It is because over 700 teams take part in the competition.
The competition pits teachers, mechanics, and electricians from non-league sides against the wealthy professional footballers from teams such as Arsenal and Manchester United. It’s a classic David and Goliath story, and surprise victories are common in the FA Cup’s history.
The beauty of it is that on more than one occasion, the smaller team emerges victorious over the giants.