The FA Cup - The Oldest Football Competition

The Football Association Challenge Cup, or simply the FA Cup, is an annual knockout tournament for English football teams. It was first played in 1871, making it the oldest tourney played at the national leve

It is named after the Football Association, which is also its organizer. The competition is now known as The Emirates FA Cup, after the main sponsors.

FA Cup final at Wembley

Eligibility

The competition welcomes all teams in the English Football League System, from the 92 professional teams that make up the Premier League, The Championship, Leagues I and II, and the other teams down to level 10. However, the teams in the first four leagues of the English Football Leagues have automatic eligibility.

Overall, the tournament is made up of 12 randomly drawn rounds that precede the semifinals and the final match. FA Cup entrants are not seeded. However, the tournament employs a byes system that considers the league level and ensures that teams in the higher echelons of the system enter in the later stages.

The initial six rounds constitute the qualifying competition where 32 teams from the lower leagues go into the first round, where they meet 48 professional teams drawn from Leagues I and II.

The last entrants are the EFL Championship and Premier League clubs, who are often drawn alongside qualifiers from round six, the competition's third round.

Competition Format

The tournament begins every August, proceeding as a knockout engagement throughout all 12 rounds. These rounds culminate in two semifinal games, and a final match often played in May.

A random draw decides the fixtures in every round. Before round five, every fixture that ends in a draw is replayed only once.

The initial six rounds of the tournament are qualifiers whose draws are organized according to the region. The last six rounds, also called proper rounds, bring together all the competing teams in one random draw.

Teams from levels nine and ten start the competition via the extra preliminary round, after which clubs from higher rounds join.

The extra preliminary and the preliminary rounds are played in August, while the first round to the fourth is conducted in September and October. The competition proper (the last six rounds) and the finals are played between November and May 1.

The Cup's Winners' and Records

Arsenal holds the most win record with 14 victories, followed by Manchester United with 12 wins and Chelsea, Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers are the most consecutive winners (three), while Arsenal leads with the most appearances at 21 competition final entries.

Leicester City has made it to four finals without winning a single one. Bolton Wanderers qualified for five finals, winning all.

On the individual level, Ashley Cole has won the tournament seven times, the most times for any player. Three of these instances were with Arsenal. The remaining four times, he was playing for Chelsea.

Arsène Wenger holds the record of the coach with the most wins. He lifted the trophy seven times, all of them while coaching Arsenal.

The tournament's winners play the following year's Community Shield against the English Premier League winners. They also qualify for the next season's UEFA Europa League.