The Football Associated Challenge Cup, better known as the FA Cup, is a men's professional football club knockout tournament held in the UK. With almost 150 years of history, it is the oldest and most coveted cup competition in football. Million descend onto the stadiums or watch the FA Cup on TV, entertained by some of the best global talents. Be sure to catch every game, by following the best available fixtures list right here!
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The competition was set up back in 1871 by the Football Association, which was founded eight years prior. The role of the Association was to unify the rules of football, but it wasn't long before the board wanted to do more, and invited all member clubs to participate in a Challenge Cup.
November 1871 saw the first game being played, and following thirteen games the Wanderers became the competition's first and second winners. By 1888, the championship was transformed, with qualifying rounds being introduced. The two global conflicts paused the FA Cup on several occasions, but it has been organised every year since 1946.
As the participating clubs gained international notoriety, the competition steadily built a global audience. In fact, by 1938, a lucky few could watch the first final of the FA Cup on TV.
FA Cup rule state that any men's professional club up to Level 10 of the English Football League System is eligible to participate, as long as it meets certain criteria. By default, all clubs which rank in the top four levels are automatically eligible.
Clubs in the other six levels need to have played in the FA Cup, FA Trophy, or FA Vase in the past season to meet the minimum criteria. With these restrictions, new clubs cannot participate in the tournament in their first year. Another important requirement for any club wanting to take part in the tournament is to have a suitable stadium.
With such welcoming criteria, it is perhaps unsurprising that over 700 clubs compete in the competition today. This encourages all their fans to tune into many matches, catching some of the best in English football on TV.
The FA Cup season begins in August and takes the form of a knockout tournament. This tournament has 12 rounds, followed by two semi-finals and a final. Using a system of byes, the tournament is designed to welcome clubs in Levels 10 and 9 at later stages.
The fixtures in each round are determined by a random draw, not seeding. Before the 5th round, fixtures ending in a tie are replayed once. During the first six rounds, considered qualifiers, draws are based on a regional level. Beyond that, clubs are drawn independently of their area of origin.
In May, the final is normally played. This is held on a Saturday following the final Premier League matchday.
Qualification for Major Competitions
One of the perks of winning the FA Cup is getting an automatic entry into the UEFA Europa League at the group stage. Whilst in the past the FA Cup's runner up would also have a place in the European Championship, since the 2015-2016 season this is no longer the case.
The winners also automatically participate in the FA Community Shield, which is a very popular live football on tv event. This match is held against the Premier League's previous season winner, or the runner ups if the winner of the Cup is also the winner of the League.
To save on travel costs and logistics of smaller teams in the league, the venues during the first 12 rounds of the competition are normally the stadium of one of the teams in each match. On the other hand, the stadium which hosts the semi-finals and final is a natural one, normally Wembley Stadium.
Over the years this neutral stadium has changed several times, but following major works completed in 2008, the most important matches of the FA Cup have been held there. With over 90,000 seats, it is the largest football stadium in the country. Nevertheless, it is a far cry from the over 13 million who tune in to live football on tv for the final.
Notable Records and Stats
A championship with so much history boasts some of the greatest achievements of English football. The overall most successful club is Arsenal, with 14 titles awarded to the team, the latest in 2020, following a 2-1 win over London rivals Chelsea. Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers jointly hold the record for most consecutive wins, with a total of 3.
The record for most club appearances in the FA Cup final is also jointly held, with top winners Arsenal and Manchester United each having 20.
Leicester City holds the unenviable record for most final appearances without winning, a total of four with the last taking place in 1969. However, they finally overcame this after beating Chelsea 1-0 in the 2021 final. Tottenham Hotspur, meanwhile, holds the record for most final appearances without losing, a total of seven.
Long before people could catch sports on TV, the FA Cup's record for most championship goals was set by Harry Cursham. Notts County's Cursham scored a whopping 49 goals in 41 cup appearances between 1877-91. Whilst his record still stands, older fans today may remember the player who came close to beating this record. Playing between 1979-1998, Ian Rush managed to score 44 cup goals during his illustrious career.
W. "Doc" Dowden's scoring record is also yet to be beaten, almost 90 years after he set it. Doc scored 19 goals in one season when he played for Wimbledon in the 1929-30 season. Bournemouth's Ted MacDougall scored the most goals in a single FA Cup match, a total of nine of the team's 11 scored against Margate.
If you are a football fan and are looking to catch some of the exciting FA Cup matches, you should know that there are several ways to watch free football on tv today. Several TV stations and internet portals provide a variety of sport, including the FA Cup on TV, without needing to subscribe or register.