FA Cup Structure (1871-Now)

FA Cup is an acronym for Football Association Cup named after Football Association, the national body that governs football in England.

Brief History of the FA Cup

The FA Cup is the oldest National tournament in the world. The Cup was first played 147 years ago in the 1871-1872 season. Arsenal is the most successful club with 13 titles. Arsene Wenger is the most successful FA cup manager having won 7 titles during his career in Arsenal.

FA Cup Mode of Play

From start to finish, the FA Cup is played as a  single knock-out competition without a return match.

Teams play only once at the home ground of either team without a return match and the winner proceeds.

Many perceive this format unfair since some team enjoys the home advantage when the away team does not get a chance to play at home.

England Leagues that Participate In FA Cup

FA is the widest competition in England since it is played by teams from all 3 England’s football levels that include:

  • Premier League (Level 1)
  • English Football Leagues (levels 2 to 4)
  • National League System teams (Levels 5 to 10)

You may be asking, how and when do all these teams enter the competition? How are they eliminated until finals?

FA Rounds and Entry Levels

FA Cup has three main levels that include 12 rounds, Semi-Finals, and Finals.

FA Teams Entry Levels

There are two main phases in the FA Cup that include the Qualifying Competition and The Competition Proper stage.

The Qualifying Competition is played between August October and in six rounds. English teams from Leagues (5-10) teams joining the phase at different rounds.

Qualifying Competition is played between November – May and involves 8 rounds including semi-finals and finals.

FA Rounds and Team Entry

Month League Entry Explanation 
August League 9 and 10 This round marks the start of the FA Cup and is played by teams from league 9 and 10 and a total of 184 matches are played.
August League 8 League 8 teams join the winners from the previous round to play 160 matches in August.
September Level 7 Level 7 teams join the competition at this stage. Teams in this level include teams playing in Isthmian League Premier, Northern Premier League, Southern League Central Division, and Southern League South Division. 116 matches are played in this round.
September Level 6 Level 6 teams join at this stage to play 80 matches in September. Level 6 teams include teams playing in the National League North and National League South. 
October Level 5 (England National League)  Level 5 clubs join FA Cup at this stage to play 32 games. Level 5 teams are those playing England’s National League.
November Level 3 (League 1) and Level 4 (League 2) teams This is the only round played in November when level 4 (League Two) and level 3 (League one) clubs join the competition. A total of 40 matches are played.
December No new teams No new teams join the tournament at this stage. The remaining teams play 20 games throughout December.
January Level 2 (Championship)  and Level 1 (EPL) teams Premier League Teams (Level 1) and Championship Teams (Level 2) join FA Cup at this round played in January. 32 games are played throughout January. 16 teams are eliminated at this stage. Note this is the last entry of teams in FA. From January henceforth, it is knockout until the finals in May.
February No new teams enter till finals.  The remaining 16 teams play 8 knockout matches to produce 8 best teams for quarterfinals. It is interesting to see teams in the premier league getting eliminated by teams in league 2 or league 3.
March  Quarter-Finals The remaining 8 teams play 4 matches. Only four teams proceed to the FA Cup Semi-Finals.
April Semifinals The game gets tighter with the best four teams play two knockout matches to produce 2 matches.
May Finals


The best two teams in the competition play finals in Wembley stadium to determine the winner. Manchester City and Watford will play 2018-2019 FA CUP finals on Saturday 18/05/2019 at Wembley Stadium.

The FA CUP Finals

The FA cup final match is always played at Wembley Stadium, England’s national stadium. Obviously, the winners of the two semi-finals proceed to finals. 

The 4 Benefits of Winning FA Cup

There are four benefits for the FA cup winners as follows.

1. FA Trophy: The FA winner wins the FA trophy. Chelsea is the current champions after beating Manchester United by a solitary goal in 2017 finals held at Wembley.

2. Europa League Qualification: the Winner automatically qualifies for either group stage or the Europa League play-offs in the coming season. 

3. Community Shield qualification: FA cup winner automatically qualifies for the Community Shield competition played against the Premier League winners in August just before the onset of the EPL.

4. Financial Award: Each team that participates in the FA cup tournament receives a financial award. The amount differs by level of elimination. Winners for the 2019 FA Cup are scheduled to receive $3,600,000. 


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