2023 Football Association Challenge Cup Kicks Off

The Football Association Challenge Cup, also known as the FA Cup, is one of the oldest and most prestigious soccer tournaments in the world. This year marks the 142nd annual FA Cup, and the ongoing competition is once again capturing the hearts of fans across the globe, including at Sidwell.

All clubs playing in the top nine tiers of the English football system are eligible to participate in the Men’s FA Cup, with 729 teams currently competing. These clubs play against each other in a knockout competition format, where a single loss results in elimination. Instead of brackets, opponents are drawn at random and games are played in rounds, with lower-ranked teams first fighting for spots in the competition during the qualifying rounds. In the case of a tie, the teams compete in a second replay match to determine who advances.

As a result of its unique format, the FA Cup enables smaller teams to take on — and often defeat — larger, more established teams. These upsets, known as “giant-killings,” see amateur and semi-professional clubs defeat global soccer superpowers and help previously unknown players make names for themselves. This unpredictability and authenticity has contributed to the FA Cup’s enduring popularity.

Wembley Stadium, located in northwest London, has been the home of the FA Cup final since 1923. Playing under the stadium’s famous arch, which looms over the field, is a dream come true for every player. For many fans around the world, attending an FA Cup final at this iconic venue is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

This year’s competition has already delivered astonishing matches, with one of the most exciting being Wrexham Association Football Club’s 3-3 draw against Sheffield United. Wrexham, a club recently acquired by actor Ryan Reynolds, held the lead against Sheffield until the equalizing goal in the fifth minute of overtime. Although Wrexham lost in the fourth-round replay, the club was certainly an unforeseen contender in the tale of this year’s FA Cup.

Within the Sidwell community, students and faculty alike are rooting for different teams in the FA Cup.

Freshman Cameron Linehan, a member of Sidwell’s varsity soccer team, has been a Manchester United fan since childhood.

When asked why he watches the FA Cup, he said, “Because it’s a thrilling competition where teams are quickly eliminated.” The higher stakes are what “makes the FA Cup special,” he added.

Upper School History Teacher and Cross Country Coach Murat Kayali has been playing soccer since he was five years old. As a fan of Arsenal, a club recently knocked out by Manchester City, Kayali hopes Brighton will lift the cup.

For Kayali, the FA Cup is a “fascinating competition [because] you can end up with semi-pro and amateur teams playing against some of the best clubs in the world, which is a different narrative than most ‘American’ sports.”