The FA Cup?

More than a feeeeeling

If you tuned in to Fox Soccer Channel expecting to see EPL matches, you were probably surprised to see the likes of Leeds United on the Old Trafford pitch. The unlikely but not unwelcome Leeds victory over a United team two divisions in front of them was the highlight of a the 2009-10 FA Cup’s third round action (list of results here).

If you caught the Leeds win, or if you merely slept through the Liverpool-Reading game, you may be wondering what the fa this Football Association Cup is, really.

The first FA Cup competition was held during the 1871-72 season. Fifteen teams were involved. The first final was held in Kennington Oval, the same spot as the first cricket test on in England (a victory over Australia). Wanderers, “a team formed by ex-public school and university players” beat Royal Engineers (self-explanatory) 1-0. Morton Betts scored the only goal of the game while playing under the assumed name A.H. Chequer because he was registered with the Harrow Chequers, who had registered for the competition but dropped out before the first ball was kicked.*

The FA Cup has been held every year since 1872 not bracketed by a world war. It is open to any team in England that a) Is a team and b) Meets certain stadium requirements (the most expensive of which is a suitable lighting system for night play. In 2008-09, 761 teams were accepted for FA Cup competition, ranging from Abbey Hey of the Northwest Counties Football League Premier Division to Yorkshire Amateur of the Northern Counties East League. The winner of the FA Cup automatically qualifies for the Europa League.**

The thrill of the FA Cup comes from the David/Goliath atmosphere that a match like Sunday’s Manchester United-Leeds matchup creates. With so many entrants each year, there is always the possibility of a huge upset and the FA Cup’s extended prominence owes a large debt to some miraculous scorelines.

Cruise back by PhillySoccerPage later today for videos of some FA Cup high points. My personal favorite will appear mid-afternoon.

*Seriously, the guy used his other team’s nickname as his fake name. The Spanish phrase for that is gigante cahones.

**If the FA Cup winner has already qualified for UEFA competition by virtue of their place in the EPL table, the sixth place EPL finisher gets the FA Cup winner’s spot in the Europa Cup. If both the FA Cup and the Carling Cup winners qualify for UEFA competition through their league finish, the 6th and 7th places in the table automatically qualify for the Europa Cup. That’s how Fulham got into Europa this year.

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