The FA Cup is the oldest national football competition in the world, having been formed in the 1871-72 season. Back in those days, football was controlled by the Football Association who wrote the rules for the game, and there were some amateur leagues, but between worker unions and schools. The FA Cup was formed with the intention to create a contest in which the best clubs in England could play each other, as opposed to local football and leagues that were restricted between schools and social classes.
Nowadays, it is one of the most prestigious competitions in the world, featuring some of the best teams in the Premier League, and the finals are always played in Wembley Stadium, with some of the highest attendance figures at above 85,000.
The competition has been won by 53 different teams, and is one of the most unpredictable Cups due to the strong displays by smaller clubs who want to beat the teams in the Premier League, and because some Premier League teams decide to focus their attention on the league and are therefore knocked out.
The Structure of the FA Cup
In 2021, the FA Cup was open to 736 teams! The competition has a Qualifying Round from August to October, when the teams in the tenth tier play in six rounds to reach the Competition Proper.
In each round, new entrants are introduced from a higher division, the first round starts with leagues nine and ten, then the following round sees them play entrants from the eight division, and the winners of that round play against the seventh division entries and so on. The final round is where the fifth division teams enter and play against the teams who have stayed in the competition, this round is in October and after it is complete, the remaining teams move into the Competition Proper.
The Competition Proper has five rounds, followed by quarter finals, semi-finals and the final. The third round is played in January, and that's when the top two divisions of English football join (The Premier League and Championship). The finals are held on the 1st May.
Teams to Look Out For
The FA Cup is one of Arsenal’s favourite competitions. They have won it fourteen times, the most any club has won, with three of those being doubles (winning the League in the same year). They won their first Cup in 1936, went on to win it sporadically over the following decades and it was only in the last twenty years when Arsenal picked up the remaining seven trophies, all under legendary manager Arsene Wenger. They have faced both equally strong opponents and mid table teams in the finals including Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool as well as Hull City, Southampton and Wednesday.
They had one of their toughest FA Cup Finals in 2005 against Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United. This was during the time when Wembley was being renovated, so the game was played in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. During the match, Manchester dominated and Arsenal only managed to get one shot on target during regular time The match finished 0-0 and headed off to penalties, where Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehman managed to save the second penalty for Manchester, and Arsenal scored all of theirs, making them Champions.
This year Arsenal started poorly in the Premier League, with many questioning whether manager Mikel Arteta would keep his job or not; slowly but surely the team has found its form and started climbing back into the Premier League. Arteta is no stranger to the FA Cup, winning the competition in his first season managing Arsenal, and with a League title unlikely, he might look to try and secure a second FA Cup.
Manchester United are the only team to have completed a treble in 1999, when they won the Premier League, the UEFA Champions League as well as the FA Cup. Along with that feat, they have won the FA Cup 12 times, and currently tie with Arsenal for the most doubles, at three apiece. They have also lost the most FA Cup finals, with eight losses. Sir Alex Ferguson was their most successful manager in the FA Cup, winning it five times and reaching the final nine times in his career. The latest FA Cup came in 2015 under manager Louis Van Gaal, where Manchester United beat Crystal Palace 2-1 in the finals. This was the final trophy that club legend Wayne Rooney had to win before he could claim that he won all the trophies and leagues that were available to win with the club.
The Manchester United team this year is coming under heavy pressure from the board after they brought in a handful of top class players. In recent years they have been knocked out in the quarter finals or semis, last reaching the finals in 2018, and last winning it in 2016. This could be their year to win some domestic silverware in the FA Cup, especially if they fail to get into contention for the league by January.
Chelsea have won the FA Cup eight times, six coming in the past twenty years. The West London based team have won their eight trophies with eight different managers, including Ruud Gullit, Guus Hllink, Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Antonio Conte. Conte won the Cup in 2010, and won the Premier League in the same season, to give Chelsea their first, and currently only, double. Jose Mourinho won the illustrious Cup with Chelsea in 2007, against Manchester United. They played in the first FA Cup final in the new Wembley, and the game was closely tied after 90 minutes, with many shots and fouls committed by both teams. The match went into extra time at 0-0, and Chelsea legend Didier Drogba scored in the 116th minute to claim the Cup.
As Chelsea are on a strong run in the Premier League as it stands, manager Thomas Tuchel may try to reach the FA Cup Finals this year as he did last. He described it as an honour to be the first German manager to get into the finals, and with a strong squad depth, he may decide to go for the domestic double this year.
Manchester City has six FA Cups in their trophy cabinet, with the last being won by manager Pep Guardiola in a league double, in 2018-19. The build-up to the final was quite favourable to Guardiola, as Manchester United had knocked out Arsenal and Chelsea, and Wolves had knocked out Liverpool, then Manchester United. Watford fought their way to the final after beating Crystal Palace and Wolves in a semi-final that went to extra time. Comparatively, Manchester City faced Rotherham, Burnley, Newport County, Swansea and Brighton to reach the final. City won the final in the biggest win in the FA Cup, at 6-0.
The importance of the 2018-19 final is that it shows what an open competition the cup can be, with some mid table clubs reaching the semi-finals or even finals. There have also been major upsets in finals, the most recent of which was when Wigan Athletic beat Manchester City in the final of 2013. Wigan set a new record, winning their first FA Cup in the same year they were relegated from the Premier League.
How To Bet On The FA Cup
Until the third round of the Competition Proper starts, you will only find the Outrights market. The matches where the Premier League and Championship teams come in are when you can find all the markets for each game. These markets include main bets like the double chance or match results, but you can also find bets that focus on player performances and match statistics.
While the matches for the bigger teams have not been drawn, it is difficult to predict who will be the outright winner, but the good side is that odds are high. You can find some of the biggest teams having really high odds, like Chelsea at odds of 7.00 or Manchester United at 7.50 or Liverpool at odds of 8.00. Manchester City are the favourites, at odds of 4.35, and Arsenal come in at odds of 13.00.