FA Cup Format
The FA Cup involves all of the clubs currently playing in all four divisions of the English Football League, along a host of non-league teams. In its early stages the competitions did include teams from Ireland, Scotland and Wales, this has now been reduced to just teams in the English Football League and the six Welsh clubs that are part of the FA still take part.
The winner of the FA Cup qualifies for the first round of the Europa League. If the winners also qualify for the Champions League by league position, the runners-up in the FA Cup qualify for the Europa League in their place. If both finalists have already qualified for the Champions League, an extra Europa League place is given on the basis of league position.
All Premier League, Championship and Football league sides are eligible to enter, while non-league teams may enter if they have competed in the previous years cup, FA Trophy or FA Vase, and are judged at being able to play at an adequate level. Furthermore all teams must also have a suitable Stadium.
The competition starts with the qualifying rounds which are regionalised to help with travelling costs of the smaller non-league sides. Clubs that are higher up the league system are exempt from certain rounds e.g. teams playing in the Conference North or Conference South are given exemption to the second qualifying round, while those from the Conference National are given exemption to the fourth qualifying round. Clubs from Football League One and Football League Two are given exemption until the first round proper, and Football League Championship and Premier League teams are given exemption until the prized third-round.
Third Round Onwards
The draw for the Third Round is now televised and takes place at the beginning of December normally by two football personalities who draw balls from alternate bags to create the fixtures for the remaining sixty four teams. The fourth round draw is then made in January straight after the results for the third round matches, and the fixtures take place at the end of January for the thirty two teams that are left in the competition.
Fifth Round Onwards
The fifth round draw is made after the results of the fourth round fixtures. Generally by this time there will be only a few, if any of the lower league teams, and the remaining 16 teams makes it start to look more like a Premiership fixture list. The sixth round draw takes place in mid-February for matches in the first week of March, and then we are then down to four teams ready for the semi-finals which take place at the beginning of April.
The draw for the semi-finals are held in mid-March normally from the headquarters of the FA. These four teams then have their matches played on the Saturday and Sunday of the first weekend in April. Traditionaly FA Cup Final competition always takes place in May and will be held at Wembley Stadium, the home of English football.
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