The FA (Football Association) Cup is one of the oldest cup competitions in the world. It started in the season of 1871-72, and was won by Wanderers. Wanderers went on to repeat the feat the next year, but would they have believed the money they would have received from the FA for taking part this season?
The FA Cup is open to teams of all levels. Village teams that have players that are electricians and plumbers, brickies and bakers to the Champions League winners Manchester United themselves are eligible to participate. Part of the idea of the FA Cup is to help redistribute funds to teams and clubs at all levels.
Extra Preliminary Round winners (203)
Preliminary Round winners (166)
First Round Qualifying winners (116)
Second Round Qualifying winners (80)
Third Round Qualifying winners (40)
Fourth Round Qualifying winners (32)
First Round Proper winners (40)
Second Round Proper winners (20)
Third Round Proper winners (32)
Fourth Round Proper winners (16)
Fifth Round Proper winners (8)
Sixth Round Proper winners (4)
Semi-Final winners (2)
Semi-Final losers (2)
* table from theFA.com
This season, there were six teams that reached the third round proper. The third round is the round where the big boys of the Premier League enter the competition. It is the round when the non-league teams start to dream of a giant killing encounter that those amateur players will tell their children and grand children about for years to come.
For the players, it can be a glorious day when they can run out in front of thousands of fans at fantastic stadia with the world watching on television. Non-league Hereford United had there own giant killing adventure by beating Division One side Newcastle United 2-1 at home in 1972. Ronnie Radford scoring in the 85th minute to level the tie with Ricky George scoring the winner in extra time.
However, it is the money that the clubs can receive that makes the competition a valuable experience for many teams. The memories live forever in the player's and fan's minds, but a good cup run can sustain a club for decades.
If Hereford had won the clash against Newcastle United they would have received £75,000 and the chance to win another £100,000, but many teams are happy to play out a replay and the chance of taking the big boys to their tiny little grounds. They get the increased chance of TV revenue, and the joy of having some of the best players in the world going toe to toe at places like Edger Street, Hereford.
The six teams to reach the third round this season were: Kettering Town, who beat Eastwood Town 2-1 for a place in the the fourth round, Forest Green, who lost to Derby County 3-4, Histon Town, who were beaten by Swansea City 2-1, Torquay United, who beat Blackpool 1-0, and Barrow FC who lost to Middlesborough 2-1.
Torquay will play Coventry City and Kettering will play Fulham of the Premier League. Maybe one of them will have a giant killing experience and be £100,000 richer on Jan. 24, 2009.