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The Emirates FA Cup explained

Heard of the FA Cup, but not exactly sure what it is? We’ll break down everything you need to know about the storied tournament.

Arsenal v Chelsea - FA Cup Final Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

The Emirates FA Cup, also known as the Football Association Challenge Cup, is the world’s oldest soccer tournament that generally takes place during the course of an entire season from August until May. It has a storied history and is met each year with excitement from clubs big and small across the entirety of England. If you’re not too familiar with how this tournament works, then you’re in the right place.

FA Cup History

The FA Cup, named after England’s governing football organization The Football Association, made its debut in the 1871-72 season and has been played every single season since with the exception of seasons that took place during the two World Wars. The first-ever winners were Wanderers FC, who dissolved in 1887.

The most successful club in FA Cup tournament history is Arsenal, who have won 14 championships overall and are the current reigning title holders having won in the 2020 edition of the tournament.

The tournament has been known by many different names as it changes with each sponsor that picks it up, but it’s been the Emirates FA Cup since 2015 since Emirates Airlines secured the sponsorship. The most recent sponsor that preceded them was Budweiser who held the sponsor title from 2011 until 2014.

FA Cup Format

The FA Cup is a knockout tournament that is open to any club from the Premier League all the way down to the 10th level of English football. By default, all 92 clubs in the Premier League, EFL Championship, EFL League One, and EFL League Two are automatically entered at different stages of the tournament. The first six rounds of the competition are qualifying rounds where eligible lower teams battle it out to be one of the 32 to advance to the First Round Proper, where they face off against teams from League One and League Two.

Clubs from the Premier League and Championship enter in the Third Round Proper and finish out the competition from there. There are no seeds like many other tournaments, so each round matchups are selected at random by way of a draw.

The whole ordeal generally begins in August and goes through 12 full rounds, followed by a semi-final and then a final game in May. The Final always takes place at Wembley Stadium in London.

In all rounds through the Fourth Round Proper, games that end in a draw will be moved on to a replay at a later date, in which the two teams will meet again to try and settle the score in regular time. If the game is still tied at the end of the replay, they’ll settle the draw by playing 30 minutes of extra time followed by a penalty shootout if necessary.

All games after the Fourth Round that aren’t decided in regular time will go straight to extra time and then penalty shootout on the same day instead of moving onto a replay.

FA Cup Winners

As mentioned before, Arsenal won the most recent edition of the FA Cup in 2020, while also winning the trophy a total of 14 times in their history. They also hold the record for most appearances in an FA Cup Final with 21. They’re just two wins clear of the next closest club, which is Manchester United who have won the tournament 12 times, most recently in 2016.

As of January 2021, only one non-League team (division five and lower) has ever reached the quarter-finals, while no team below division two (EFL Championship) has ever reached the Final.

Who is favored to win 2021?

Manchester City is installed as the betting favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook with odds at +350. Man City is followed by Liverpool (+700), Tottenham (+800) and Manchester United and Chelsea (both +900).

The best odds for non-EPL teams include Bournemouth, Brentford, Norwich City, and Watford from EFL Championship, who all sit at +10000. Portsmouth, Doncaster, and Plymouth Argyle are among those in EFL League One sitting at +50000.