How does the FA Cup work? FA Cup explained
Here is everything you need to know about the oldest national football competition in the world.
What is the FA Cup?
The FA Cup is the oldest national football competition in the world. It is a domestic knockout competition played annually in England.
How does the FA Cup work?
The FA Cup is open to any club from level 10 upwards in the football pyramid.
The tournament consists of 12 randomly-drawn rounds, the first six of which are qualifying rounds, followed by the semi-finals and final.
Entrants are not seeded, although clubs from League One and League Two do not enter until the first round proper, while Championship and Premier League clubs join in the third round.
The ties are played over one leg, with the winner progressing to the next round.
Should any match prior to the fifth round end level, both sides will usually contest a replay at the home of the away team.
From the fifth round onwards, any match level after 90 minutes will go straight to extra time and penalties.
How does the FA Cup draw work?
Before each round of the FA Cup, other than the final, a random draw is conducted to determine the fixtures.
Each club in the draw will be given a number which corresponds to a ball that is emptied into a glass container.
Balls are then picked out one by one, with the person picking unable to see the number ball they have picked until it is presented.
The first ball to be picked out denotes the home side in the particular tie, while the second ball is for the away team.
For example, if ball number one, corresponding to Arsenal - currently in the football betting to win the trophy again - is drawn out first, followed by ball number two, which is Liverpool’s ball, that would mean Arsenal would host Liverpool in the next round.
How does FA Cup qualifying work?
There are six qualifying rounds that take before the first round proper, the purpose of which is to filter down the large number of non-league sides that enter the competition.
There are 645 teams below League Two who participate, but only 32 that make it past the final qualifying round.
Teams from League One and League Two do not join until the first round, while Championship and Premier League clubs enter at the third-round stage.
Non-league participants, meanwhile, must go through at least one qualifying round, with the stage at which they enter decided by their level in the pyramid.
Sides from levels nine and 10 begin in the extra preliminary round, with extra clubs from different levels joining at different stage – National League clubs enter in the fourth qualifying round.
How old is the FA Cup?
As mentioned above, the FA Cup is the oldest national football competition in the world. It was first contested in the 1871/72 season – 149 years ago.
The trophy itself has been redesigned once since the competition began, in 1911. The trophy currently in use was made in 2014 and is a replica of the 1911 model.
What is a replay?
Traditionally, if an FA Cup match ends in a draw then both sides will replay at the home of the away team.
Should the replay also end level, then the tie is decided by extra time and penalties, if necessary.
Replays were scrapped from the fifth round onwards during the 2018/19 season, with the initial game going to extra time and penalties if level after 90 minutes.
During the 2020/21 season, there will be no replays whatsoever in the FA Cup owing to issues with fixture congestion.
Can the FA Cup winner qualify for the Champions League?
England’s four Champions League spots are awarded to the top four clubs in the Premier League table, while the FA Cup winner is awarded a place in the Europa League.
The only way in which the FA Cup winner can qualify is by also finishing in the top four or by winning the Champions League or Europa League.
Will the FA Cup be behind closed doors?
Given the ongoing uncertainty surrounding fans being allowed back into stadiums, it is looking increasingly likely that the majority of the 2020/21 FA Cup will be played behind closed doors.
Who won the 2020 FA Cup?
Arsenal won the 2019/20 FA Cup final, beating Chelsea 2-1 at Wembley on 1 August. The Gunners are the most successful team in the history of the competition, having lifted the trophy 14 times.
When is the 2021 FA Cup final?
The 2020/21 FA Cup final is scheduled to take place on 15 May at Wembley Stadium.