Few sporting competitions can match the levels of grandeur and prestige of the FA Cup, the oldest association football competition in the world. First played in 1872 the competition sees non-league teams taking part alongside the very best teams in the country. Anything can happen in the FA Cup and more often it does and you might be surprised to know that the team who has scored the most goals in the history of this illustrious competition isn't a top league team but Southern League Premier side Kettering Town.
For non-league teams the competition begins with the Extra Preliminary Round. For teams way down the pyramid there are a total of six rounds that have to be negotiated just to reach the First Round. That's when teams from League One and League Two enter the FA Cup. Two more rounds are played before the FA Cup Third Round draw takes place. That's one of the most special occasions of the season when the Premier League and Championship sides come into the tournament. It's then that a non-league team can find themselves drawn against the very best in the land, such as when Crawley were drawn against Manchester United and Havant & Waterlooville played Liverpool at Anfield. Dreams really can come true in the FA Cup as teams dream of reaching the FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium.
Brandt Snedeker is 4/6 at Ladbrokes to win the Wyndham Championship
Manchester United to meet Chelsea in 2018 Final
The scene is set for the FA Cup Final which takes place at Wembley Stadium on Saturday May 19 at 5.15pm. Chelsea take on Manchester United after the two sides had wins over Southampton and Tottenham respectively in the semi-finals.
Manchester United last won the FA Cup in 2016 beating Crystal Palace but that's their only win since 2004. If Jose Mourinho can manage his side to victory against his former club, United will equal the record of 13 FA Cup Wins level with Arsenal. Chelsea last won the cup in 2012.
Route to the Final
Third Round - Beat Derby County at home 2-0
Fourth Round - Beat Yeovil Town away 4-0
Fifth Round - Beat Huddersfield Town away 2-0
Sixth Round - Beat Brighton and Hove Albion at home 2-0
Semi-Final - Beat Tottenham 2-1 at Wembley
Third Round - Beat Norwich City on penalties after a 1-1 home replay. Original game drawn 0-0 away
Fourth Round - Beat Newcastle United 3-0 at home.
Fifth Round - Beat Hull City 4-0 at home
Sixth Round - Won away at Leicester City 2-1 after extra time.
Semi- Final - Beat Southampton 2-0 at Wembley
FA Cup: The Vital Information
The winners of the FA Cup qualify for the Europa League. In the past the runners-up would qualify if the team winning the trophy had already qualified for Europe. Recent changes have ended this, meaning Aston Villa didn't qualify after losing to Arsenal in the 2014/15 Cup final.
As you can imagine, 'The magic of the cup' brings about huge betting interest and you can use your free bets to bet on the FA Cup winner pretty much as soon as the season starts. Betting is available on matches from the early qualifiers all the way through to the final at Wembley.
With the FA Cup renowned for its upsets, this means there are some high odds available throughout the tournament. In the 2014/15 season League One Bradford City played Chelsea away and were available at 25/1 to win the match. Heaven knows what the odds were on them when they went 2-0 down but they went on to win 4-2. The same day Manchester City were knocked out by Middlesbrough from the Championship and the odds on both Premier League sides being knocked out were 285/1.
As of the 2015/16 season the competition has been known as The Emirates FA Cup.
What markets can I use my FA Cup Free Bet on?
Aside from betting on the individual games, you can use your FA Cup Free Bets on a variety of outright markets including:
- Outright winner
- Which two teams will reach the final
- To reach the semi finals
- Top goalscorer
- Furthest progressing non-league team
- Furthest progressing non-Premier League team
Who to back in the FA Cup
Arsenal are the most successful club in FA Cup history having won the trophy on 13 occasions. The Gunners have won the trophy in three of the last four seasons, with their most recent success coming via a 2-1 victory over Chelsea in the 2017 final. Arsene Wenger has been in charge for seven of those conquests and as a result is the competition's all time most successful manager. Manchester United are the second most successful team in FA Cup history with 12 titles, the last of which came in 2016.
As the competition gets underway, the favourites will nearly always be the side towards the summit of the Premier League. The likes of Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham and the aforementioned duo are therefore worth your consideration when betting on the outright winner of the FA Cup. Over the last 30 years, teams from that elite group have won the trophy on 28 occasions. Portsmouth were one exception to that rule in 2008 when they beat Cardiff in the final, though that Pompey side were a top-half Premier League outfit back then. The most recent surprise winners were Wigan in 2013, when despite being relegated from the Premier League in the same season, they claimed a 1-0 win over Manchester City in the final. This suggests that whilst shocks do happen in the tournament, the winner does usually come from one of the country's biggest names.
Who are the most recent FA Cup winners?
- 2017 - Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea
- 2016 - Manchester United 2-1 Crystal Palace (aet)
- 2015 - Arsenal 4-0 Aston Villa
- 2014 - Arsenal 3-2 Hull City (aet)
- 2013 - Wigan 1-0 Manchester City
FA Cup Upsets
The FA Cup has a reputation right across the footballing world for the amount of upsets that happen in the competition. Given how teams can find themselves up against sides from much higher divisions, there is often a huge disparity in the price on offer between two teams for games. For example in the 2016/17 season, Premier League side Arsenal came up against non-league side Sutton United in the last 16. Despite Sutton being at home, they were available at a price of a huge 18/1 to win the match whilst Arsene Wenger's side were just 2/11. These kind of odds are very seldom found in domestic league fixtures, where the two sides go in to games on much more even playing field.
Whilst the FA Cup can prove very profitable due to such enticing odds, it's not the easiest of competitions to bet on. Form can often go right out of the window as the so called 'lesser teams' can drastically raise their game against more illustrious opposition. Many teams from across the divisions will also use the competition to rotate players and therefore their starting line-ups will feature numerous players who are not first team regulars. This is certainly worth considering when betting on the FA Cup, especially with the Premier League teams as their could be real value in backing against them.
As previously mentioned, the FA Cup is well renowned for it's giant killings. Sure we can all get misty-eyed and carried away with the idea of the 'magic of the cup' as the old cliche goes but there has been some genuinely incredible upsets in the competition over the years. From Ronnie Radford's classic winner for Hereford against Newcastle in 1972 to then league champions Arsenal being knocked out by lowly Wrexham in 1992, there has been plenty of drama in the early rounds over the years. Upsets however have also occurred in the final and perhaps most famously when Wimbledon beat Liverpool in 1988. Liverpool were the dominant force in English football during the 1980's and recently wrapped up their sixth league title of the decade, losing just twice in the campaign. Wimbledon on the other hand had been plying their trade in the Southern Football League just 11 years previously and few people gave 'the Crazy Gang' much chance of success. However they pulled off a huge shock with a 1-0 victory thanks to a goal from Lawrie Sanchez.
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