The FA Cup is the oldest national football competition in the world as the tournament dates back to 1871 when Wanderers FC won the inaugural trophy, beating Royal Engineers 1-0. Today the tournament is watched all over the world; in particular, the final which attracts a huge global audience.
Every year, 736 teams compete in the FA Cup as the extra preliminary round begins in August where a number of amateur clubs take part, all hoping they can advance as far as possible. Those lucky enough to reach the first-round proper then have the opportunity to pit themselves against a professional football club. The competition has thrown up some magical results over the years as there have been a number of huge giant-killings in the early rounds and after the third round, when the Premier League clubs enter the draw.
Of course, if you’re keen on visiting all the football grounds in the country, the cup provides an ideal opportunity to get to some that you may have missed.
One of the most famous ever FA Cup upsets came in the 1971/72 tournament when non-league Hereford defeated First-Division Newcastle 2-1. Hereford were trailing 1-0 in the game but scored two late goals to cement their place in history, as the highlights are shown every year by television companies to remind their viewers of the magic of the cup. More recently, Lincoln City of the National League (fifth tier of English football) defeated Premier League side Burnley to reach the quarter-final in 2017.
The final of the FA Cup is held every year at Wembley in London. The original stadium hosted the first ever final in 1923 and continued to do so until it was demolished in 2000. For a period of six years, the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales played host to the game, while in 2007, the first ever FA Cup final was played at the new Wembley Stadium where Chelsea beat Manchester United 1-0 after extra-time.
Chelsea are the defending champions going into the 2018/19 competition and they are 7/1 in the FA cup betting to retain their crown. The Blues defeated Manchester United 1-0 in the final back in May when Eden Hazard scored from the penalty spot.
Arsenal hold the record for the highest number of FA Cup wins at 13, their most recent victory coming in 2017 when they beat Chelsea 2-1. The Gunners have dominated the competition in recent years as they have been successful in three of the last five finals. Manchester United are second best in the list of the most FA Cup final victories at 12, while Chelsea and Tottenham are joint-third with eight wins each.
The FA Cup also gives teams the opportunity to qualify into two other competitions. The winners of the tournament get a spot in the following season’s Europa League tournament. If the team who lifts the trophy has already qualified for Europe through their league position, the runners-up get the place. The FA Cup winners also play in the Community Shield at Wembley at the start of the following season where they face the Premier League winners.
Enjoy the magic of the cup this season, where there are sure to be a number of fantastic stories along the way to the final on May 18th.