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
1 Format
2 Giant-Killers
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

  • In 1903 Bury defeated Derby County 6-0, in what is still the highest score in an FA Cup final.
  • The first final to be played at Wembley, in 1923, drew an over-capacity crowd of more than 200,000. Spectators spilled onto the field, but were moved back by a single mounted policeman, and the game (which came to be known as the "White Horse Final") was played with spectators lining the edge of the pitch.
  • The final of 1953 is known as the Matthews Final. The match between Blackpool and Bolton Wanderers saw Stanley Matthews, at the age of 38, in his third attempt to win an FA cup winners medal for Blackpool. Bolton were 3-1 up with 22 minutes remaining and looked set to win the match when Blackpool's Stan Mortensen scored from a Matthews cross. With less than five minutes remaining Blackpool equalised from a Mortensen free kick and shortly after the restart, with everybody anticipating extra time, Matthews passed to Bill Perry who securing a 4-3 victory for Blackpool.
  • In 1984, Johnny Hore's Plymouth Argyle side narrowly missed out on being the first Third Division side to reach the final. In a tense semi-final at Villa Park, Watford came out on top, 1-0 victors. Starting in the first round proper, Argyle had beaten Southend United (on a replay), Barking, Newport County (on a replay), West Bromwich Albion and Derby County (on a replay).
  • In 1989 during the opening minutes of the FA Cup sem-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, 96 people were crushed to death because of overcrowding. See the Hillsborough disaster.
  • The first FA Cup final played outside of England was in the final of the 2000/2001 season at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Liverpool came from behind (against the balance of play) to snatch a 2-1 victory over Arsenal. Arsenal went back to Wales the following two seasons to win the Cup.
  • For the first time, the FA Cup was played under a roof in the final of the 2002/2003 season, held on May 17, 2003 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, with Arsenal F.C and Southampton F.C benefitting from cover from the rain (Arsenal were the 1 - 0 winners).

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
1Manchester United10199951995
2 Arsenal9200372001
3 Tottenham Hotspur8199111987
4Aston Villa7195732000
5Newcastle United6195571999
Blackburn Rovers6192821960
West Bromwich Albion5196851935
Wanderers FC518780

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 1999, Manchester United added the Champions League crown to its double, an accomplishment known as The Treble.

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:

Year Winner Runner-up Score
1872Wanderers FCRoyal Engineers1 - 0
1873Wanderers FCOxford University2 - 0
1874Oxford UniversityRoyal Engineers2 - 0
1875Royal EngineersOld Etonians1 - 1 (aet) ; 2 - 0 (replay)
1876Wanderers FCOld Etonians1 - 1 (aet) ; 3 - 0 (replay)
1877Wanderers FCOxford University2 - 1 (aet)
1878Wanderers FCRoyal Engineers3 - 1
1879Old EtoniansClapham Rovers1 - 0
1880Clapham RoversOxford University1 - 0
1881Old CarthusiansOld Etonians3 - 0
1882Old EtoniansBlackburn Rovers1 - 0
1883Blackburn OlympicOld Etonians2 - 1 (aet)
1884Blackburn RoversQueens Park2 - 1
1885Blackburn RoversQueens Park2 - 0
1886Blackburn RoversWest Bromwich Albion0 - 0 (aet) ; 2 - 0 (replay)
1887Aston VillaWest Bromwich Albion2 - 0
1888West Bromwich AlbionPreston North End2 - 1
1889Preston North EndWolverhampton Wanderers3 - 0
1890Blackburn RoversSheffield Wednesday6 - 1
1891Blackburn RoversNotts County3 - 1
1892West Bromwich AlbionAston Villa3 - 0
1893Wolverhampton WanderersEverton1 - 0
1894Notts CountyBolton Wanderers4 - 1
1895Aston VillaWest Bromwich Albion1 - 0
1896Sheffield WednesdayWolverhampton Wanderers2 - 1
1897Aston VillaEverton3 - 2
1898Nottingham ForestDerby County3 - 1
1899Sheffield UnitedDerby County4 - 1
1900BurySouthampton4 - 0
1901Tottenham HotspurSheffield United2 - 2 (aet); 3 - 1 (replay)
1902Sheffield UnitedSouthampton1 - 1 (aet); 2 - 1 (replay)
1903BuryDerby County6 - 0
1904Manchester CityBolton Wanderers1 - 0
1905Aston VillaNewcastle United2 - 0
1906EvertonNewcastle United1 - 0
1907Sheffield WednesdayEverton2 - 1
1908Wolverhampton WanderersNewcastle United3 - 1
1909Manchester UnitedBristol City1 - 0
1910Newcastle UnitedBarnsley1 - 1 (aet); 2 - 0 (replay)
1911Bradford CityNewcastle United0 - 0 (aet); 1 - 0 (replay)
1912BarnsleyWest Bromwich Albion0 - 0 (aet); 1 - 0 (aet, replay)
1913Aston VillaSunderland1 - 0
1914BurnleyLiverpool1 - 0
1915Sheffield UnitedChelsea3 - 0
1916 - 1919No matches due to World War One
1920Aston VillaHuddersfield Town1 - 0 (aet)
1921Tottenham HotspurWolverhampton Wanderers1 - 0
1922Huddersfield TownPreston North End1 - 0
1923Bolton WanderersWest Ham United2 - 0
1924Newcastle UnitedAston Villa2 - 0
1925Sheffield UnitedCardiff City1 - 0
1926Bolton WanderersManchester City1 - 0
1927Cardiff CityArsenal1 - 0
1928Blackburn RoversHuddersfield Town3 - 1
1929Bolton WanderersPortsmouth2 - 0
1930ArsenalHuddersfield Town2 - 0
1931West Bromwich AlbionBirmingham2 - 1
1932Newcastle UnitedArsenal2 - 1
1933EvertonManchester City3 - 0
1934Manchester CityPortsmouth2 - 1
1935Sheffield WednesdayWest Bromwich Albion4 - 2
1936ArsenalSheffield United1 - 0
1937SunderlandPreston North End3 - 1
1938Preston North EndHuddersfield Town1 - 0 (aet)
1939PortsmouthWolverhampton Wanderers4 - 1
1940Abandoned due to World War Two
1941 - 1945No matches due to World War Two
1946Derby CountyCharlton Athletic4 - 1 (aet)
1947Charlton AthleticBurnley1 - 0 (aet)
1948Manchester UnitedBlackpool4 - 2
1949Wolverhampton WanderersLeicester City3 - 1
1950ArsenalLiverpool2 - 0
1951Newcastle UnitedBlackpool2 - 0
1952Newcastle UnitedArsenal1 - 0
1953BlackpoolBolton Wanderers4 - 3
1954West Bromwich AlbionPreston North End3 - 2
1955Newcastle UnitedManchester City3 - 1
1956Manchester CityBirmingham City3 - 1
1957Aston VillaManchester United2 - 1
1958Bolton WanderersManchester United2 - 0
1959Nottingham ForestLuton Town2 - 1
1960Wolverhampton WanderersBlackburn Rovers3 - 0
1961Tottenham HotspurLeicester City2 - 0
1962Tottenham HotspurBurnley3 - 1
1963Manchester UnitedLeicester City3 - 1
1964West Ham UnitedPreston North End3 - 2
1965LiverpoolLeeds United2 - 1 (aet)
1966EvertonSheffield Wednesday3 - 2
1967Tottenham HotspurChelsea2 - 1
1968West Bromwich AlbionEverton1 - 0 (aet)
1969Manchester CityLeicester City1 - 0
1970ChelseaLeeds United2 - 2 (aet); 2 - 1 (replay)
1971ArsenalLiverpool2 - 1
1972Leeds UnitedArsenal1 - 0
1973SunderlandLeeds United1 - 0
1974LiverpoolNewcastle United3 - 0
1975West Ham UnitedFulham2 - 0
1976SouthamptonManchester United1 - 0
1977Manchester UnitedLiverpool2 - 1
1978Ipswich TownArsenal1 - 0
1979ArsenalManchester United3 - 2
1980West Ham UnitedArsenal1 - 0
1981Tottenham HotspurManchester City1 - 1 (aet); 3 - 2 (replay)
1982Tottenham HotspurQueen's Park Rangers1 - 1 (aet); 1 - 0 (replay)
1983Manchester UnitedBrighton & Hove Albion2 - 2 (aet); 4 - 0 (replay)
1984EvertonWatford F.C2 - 0
1985Manchester UnitedEverton1 - 0 (aet)
1986LiverpoolEverton3 - 1
1987CoventryTottenham Hotspur3 - 2 (aet)
1988WimbledonLiverpool1 - 0
1989LiverpoolEverton3 - 2 (aet)
1990Manchester UnitedCrystal Palace3 - 3 (aet); 1 - 0 (replay)
1991Tottenham HotspurNottingham Forest2 - 1 (aet)
1992LiverpoolSunderland2 - 0
1993ArsenalSheffield Wednesday1 - 1; 2 - 1 (replay, aet)
1994Manchester UnitedChelsea4 - 0
1995EvertonManchester United1 - 0
1996Manchester UnitedLiverpool1 - 0
1997ChelseaMiddlesbrough2 - 0
1998ArsenalNewcastle United2 - 0
1999Manchester UnitedNewcastle United2 - 0
2000ChelseaAston Villa1 - 0
2001LiverpoolArsenal2 - 1
2002ArsenalChelsea2 - 0
2003ArsenalSouthampton1 - 0