Every year since 1871, clubs part of the English Football Association take part in the FA Cup. While everyone knows about the English Premier League and UEFA Champions League, the FA Cup is a competition that should not go unnoticed.
The day of the FA Cup semifinal is treated like a holiday in England. 736 teams take part in the Cup that begins in August with teams competing to just qualify for what is called the “Competition Proper”. Every sports fan loves a Cinderella Story and the FA Cup can allow just that.
This is the only competition in which smaller clubs get to take on the giants of the English Football pyramid. While the well-known clubs of England like Arsenal and Manchester United have dominated the FA Cup of late, each year there is an underdog story that catches the eye of the soccer world.
On Sunday, there were two ties that were of particular interest. Each of these games pitted a lower-level team against a Premier League Club.
In the first of these games, Premier League club West Ham United visited third-division Shrewsbury Town. There were several aspects of the game that made it intriguing: 1) Joe Hart, West Ham goalkeeper was playing his boyhood club.
Hart grew up as a player at Shrewsbury before going on to be the top choice goalkeeper for the English National Team and Premier League giants Manchester City. On a sunny afternoon, Joe even asked a fan in the stands for a little help.
Having trouble keeping the sun out of his eyes, Hart borrowed a hat from a fan behind his goal. You don’t see this in your average Premier League game, mainly because the stadiums are large enough to keep a blinding sun out.
The FA Cup provides light-hearted moments like these that allow fans to interact with the game’s stars, and 2) Shrewsbury Town absolutely dominated and deserved to pull the upset. They had a 56-44 advantage in possession and a 9-4 advantage in shots. It is unfortunate the game ended in a 0-0 draw resulting in a replay requiring Shrewsbury to travel to West Ham.
West Ham sit fifteenth in the Premier League table, thirty places above Shrewsbury, who sit second in the third division League One. The game had the makings of the perfect upset and a great storyline.
The first major “cupset” of the Cup, came from Nottingham Forest, 14th in the second division English Championship. Going up against Arsenal, sixth place in the Premier League seemed the tall task. After all, Arsenal are two-time defending FA Cup Champions and have won the competition a record 13 times.
Here is where the magic of the FA Cup comes in. Forest took it to Arsenal, defeating them 4-2. American Eric Lichaj was the star of the day scoring two goals causing the fans to break into frenzy and start chanting “USA! USA! USA!” This is the first time Arsenal has lost in the third round under Arsene Wenger.
The Premier League is great. Manchester City is putting on an all-time display to run away with the title. However, the FA Cup provides Cinderella stories the Premier League often does not.
Sports fans love a good story and the FA Cup is one of the few professional sporting events that allows for upset stories. Pay attention to the FA Cup soccer fans. It will not disappoint.