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The FA Cup, or the Football Association Challenge Cup, is a men's domestic English football competition played annually. It is the oldest association football competition in the world. It was first played in the 1871-72 season and is organised by the Football Association.
The FA Cup is open to any eligible club in the English football league system. Clubs in the top 4 levels of English football are automatically eligible. The bottom 6 levels need to have played in either the FA Cup, the FA Trophy or the FA Vase competitions in the previous seasons. They also need to have a suitable stadium for hosting games.
There are 12 rounds in the FA Cup. The initial rounds consist of randomly drawn match-ups, followed by a semi-final and final played on neutral ground, usually Wembley Stadium. Clubs are not seeded, but a system of byes ensures that higher-ranked clubs do not enter the competition until the later rounds.
The competition begins in August with the Qualifying rounds. Level 3 and 4 Clubs enter when the competition proper starts in November. Level 1 and 2 Clubs receive an automatic bye to the third round that starts in January. The Final takes place in May.
Winners of the FA Cup qualify for the UEFA Europa League the following season
Because the FA Cup is open to many clubs, and games are unseeded, the anticipation of unlikely victories by lower-ranked teams is high. However, since 1945, only 9 non-league teams have made it as far as the fifth round to become one of the last 16 in the competition.
Between 2006 and 2022, 15 of the 14 FA Cup titles were won by top-six Premier League Clubs. Since the Football League was created in 1888, only 8 teams outside of the top flight of English Football have won the FA Cup, and only 24 finalists have not been placed in the top tier.
Arsenal is the team with the best FA Cup record, with 14 victories as of 2023.
Betting on the outright winner of the FA Cup is one of the most popular bets, but there are many other options open to savvy gamblers. Double Chance bets can be placed on one of two teams to win outright. These will get lower odds but a greater chance of a payout. Other popular bets are on the names of FA Cup finalists, the division of the outright winner and on which round of the competition a particular team will reach.
The FA Cup is broadcast live in the UK on the BBC and ITV. The BBC will show 18 live matches each season and ITV will show at least 20 live matches each season. In Ireland the broadcast partner is Premier Sport.
Matches can also be watched in the US on ESPN and Canada on Sportsnet.