1.23.2008

FA Cup: The World’s Greatest Tournament

As a sports fan, one of my favorite times of the year is the month of March. Growing up near the University of Kentucky, its impossible not to get caught up in March Madness. I love the idea that any team in the country can qualify for a spot in the 64 team field. (I refuse to admit the Play-In Game exists.) Well if you’re a fan of the NCAA tournament, I’ve got news for you. It pales in comparison to England’s FA Cup.

Disclaimer: The FA Cup is a soccer tournament. I’m just talking about the setup of the league and the tourney; so even if you hate soccer, please keep reading.

English Soccer 101: Think of English soccer as an uber-version of Major League Baseball. But instead of baseball’s 4 major divisions (MLB, AAA, AA, and A), English soccer has 14 separate classifications, culminating in its Premier League. If you get interested, read all about the English Football League System.

The best thing about the setup is that each league promotes and demotes teams from year to year. So at the end of this season, the 3 teams with the lowest amount of points in the Premier League (accumulated similar to the NHL), will be demoted to Football League Championship (AAA). Those teams will be forced to WIN their way back into the big time. Similarly, three teams from the FLC, will be promoted to the promised land.

Imagine if the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Kansas City Royals, and Pittsburg Pirates all got kicked back to AAA. In turn, Nashvillians would truly root for the Sounds, because if they finished in the top three, they would be in MLB the next year!

For all practical purposes, teams in the top 11 tiers are allowed to enter the FA Cup. Teams in better leagues get byes to further rounds. An astonishing 665 teams entered last year’s draw. The tournament exists amidst league play and lasts for an incredible 9 months. Besides the initial byes, there isn’t any seeding. All match-ups are drawn before each round. So there isn’t a bracket; you could play any team remaining in the tournament at any time. There are from time to time historic upsets. The system is set up so that the West Tenn. Diamond Jaxx would have a change to beat the Boston Red Sox.

I think tournaments/league setups are the reasons soccer fans in Europe are so passionate. There is always a chance for greatness.

1 comment:

JB said...

You are a soccer genius- Nice work. Let me know when this makes it on the soccer blog