The FA Cup, known officially as The Football Association Challenge Cup, is an annual knockout association football competition in men's domestic English football. First played during the 1871–72 season, it is the oldest association football competition in the world. It is organised by and named after The Football Association (The FA). For sponsorship reasons, from 2015 through to 2018 it is also known as The Emirates FA Cup. A concurrent women's tournament is also held, the FA Women's Cup.
The competition is open to any eligible club down to Level 10 of the English football league system – all 92 professional clubs in the Premier League (Level 1) and the English Football League (Levels 2 to 4), and several hundred "non-league" teams in Steps 1 to 6 of the National League System (Levels 5 to 10). A record 763 clubs competed in 2011–12. The tournament consists of 12 randomly drawn rounds followed by the semi-finals and the final. Entrants are not seeded, although a system of byes based on league level ensures higher ranked teams enter in later rounds – the minimum number of games needed to win the competition ranges from six to fourteen.
The first six rounds are the Qualifying Competition, from which 32 teams progress to the first round of the Competition Proper, meeting the first of the 92 professional teams from Leagues One and Two. The last entrants are the Premier League and Championship clubs, into the draw for the Third Round Proper. In the modern era, only one non-league team has ever reached the quarter finals, and teams below Level 2 have never reached the final. As a result, as well as who wins, significant focus is given to those "minnows" (smaller teams) who progress furthest, especially if they achieve an unlikely "giant-killing" victory. A recent example is Lincoln City, who became the first non-league team in a century to make it to the quarterfinal stages, before losing to Arsenal F.C..
Winners receive the FA Cup trophy, of which there have been two designs and five actual cups; the latest is a 2014 replica of the second design, introduced in 1911. Winners also qualify for European football and a place in the FA Community Shield match. Manchester United are the current holders, having beaten Crystal Palace 2–1 after extra time in the 2016 final to win the cup for the 12th time in their history and become the tournament's joint-most successful club alongside Arsenal.Close