The Football Association Challenge Cup, commonly known as the FA Cup, is the main "knockout" cup competition in English football, run by and named for The Football Association. It is the oldest football competition in the world. As it involves clubs of all standards playing against each other, there is great scope for "giant-killers" from the lower divisions to eliminate top clubs from the tournament.
|Table of contents|
3 Notable events in the FA Cup
4 Past Winners of the FA Cup
The competition is a knockout (single elimination) tournament with ties drawn completely at random - there are no seeds. The draw also determines which team will play at home. If a match is drawn, there is a replay at the ground of the other team. Drawn replays are now settled with extra time and penalty competitions, though in the past further replays were possible, and some ties took as many as five matches to settle. The semi-finals are contested at neutral venues, and the final is normally played at Wembley Stadium in London. During the redevelopment of Wembley, finals have been played at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. This is the first time the final has been played outside of England.
The competition begins with the Extra-Preliminary rounds contested by non-league clubs in August, which any F.A. affiliated club meeting a basic standard of ability and ground facilities may enter. 644 clubs entered the competition in the 2003/04 season. Following the Extra-Preliminary Round is a Preliminary Round, four Qualifying Rounds, and six Rounds of the competition proper, followed by the Semi-Finals and the Final. All Football League clubs may enter. Non-league clubs may also enter if they competed in the previous season's FA Trophy or FA Vase and are deemed to be playing in an "acceptable" league for the current season. All clubs entering the competition must have a suitable and safe stadium capacity.
Teams from the higher levels of the non-league "pyramid" may get exemptions from some of these rounds: Clubs from the Nationwide Conference are given a bye to the Fourth Qualifying Round, clubs from the Second and Third Divisions of the Football League join the winners of the Fourth Qualifying Round in the draw for the First Round proper in November. First Division and Premier League teams are given a bye into the Third Round, traditionally held in the first weekend in January. The Final is played at the end of the season in May. Tottenham Hotspur F.C claim notoriety as the only non-league winners of the FA Cup, in 1901 (they were then playing in the Southern League and were only elected to the Football League in 1908) but at that time the Football League consisted of only two 18-team divisions; their victory would be comparable to a team near the bottom of the first division winning today.
The winning team qualifies by right for the first round of the UEFA Cup. If the winners qualify for the Champions League, the losing finalist qualifies for the UEFA Cup. If both finalists qualify for the Champions League, an extra UEFA Cup place is given on the basis of Premier League position.
The FA Cup has a long tradition of lower-division and non-league teams becoming "giant-killers" by defeating highly-ranked opponents. Yeovil Town F.C reached the fifth round in 1948-49 while in the Southern League, and defeated League opposition many other times before winning promotion to the Football League in 2003. In 1956-57 Bournemouth beat Wolves and Spurs before a controversial quarter-final defeat by Manchester United. Non-league Hereford United F.C famously beat Newcastle in 1971. A fifth-round tie in 1977-78 pitched two giant-killers together: Third Division Wrexham, who had beaten Bristol City and Newcastle, and non-league Blyth Spartans A.F.C who had beaten Stoke. Wrexham won the replay in front of a huge crowd at St. James' Park in Newcastle, but were beaten by Arsenal in the next round. Wrexham did get some revenge a few years later when they beat Arsenal in a 1992 third round tie in north Wales. The achievement was especially notable as the previous year Arsenal had been league champions and Wrexham had finished bottom of the league.
Notable events in the FA Cup
Past Winners of the FA Cup
Manchester United have won the cup the most times - ten in all. Two clubs have won the cup on three consecutive occasions - Wanderers (1876-8) and Blackburn Rovers (1884-6)
Leicester City hold the unfortunate record of having appeared in four FA Cup finals without ever winning the cup.
The top 10 clubs by number of wins (and when they last won and lost a final):
|Club||Winner||Last win||Runner-up||Last losing final|
|West Bromwich Albion||5||1968||5||1935|
Six clubs have won the FA Cup as part of a League and Cup double, these are Preston North End (1889), Aston Villa (1897), Spurs (1961), Arsenal (1971, 1998, 2002), Liverpool (1986) and Manchester United (1994, 1996, 1999). The doubles are highlighted in bold in the table below. Arsenal and Manchester United share the record of three doubles. Arsenal are the only club to win doubles in distinct decades, and have in fact won in three different decades.
In 2001, Liverpool did not win the league, but won the League Cup and UEFA Cup to complete a different treble. This less prestigious set of results has been called, by opposition fans, the Tin Pot Treble.
The full results of the final: