Monday, 15 Apr 2024

A Comparative Analysis: FA Cup vs. Carabao Cup

FA Cup Trophy

The FA Cup and the Carabao Cup are two of the most prestigious domestic cup competitions in England. While both tournaments offer thrilling matches and the chance to lift a coveted trophy, they differ in format, eligibility, and prize money. In this article, we will delve into the details of these two competitions and explore what sets them apart.

FA Cup


The FA Cup, established in 1871, is the oldest domestic cup competition not only in England but in the world. Its long-standing tradition and rich history make it highly respected. The Women’s FA Cup, introduced in 1970, has also gained prominence in recent years. Emirates currently sponsors the FA Cup.

Eligibility and Teams

The FA Cup welcomes a staggering number of teams, with 736 participating from as low as level 9 divisions. However, teams must meet specific criteria set by the FA, who hold the power to accept or reject applications. The eligibility levels are as follows:

  • Level 1: Premier League teams
  • Level 2: Championship teams
  • Level 3: League One teams
  • Level 4: League Two teams
  • Level 5-9: Non-league teams

Non-league teams are required to participate in the FA Trophy as well, ensuring they meet specific criteria for stadium suitability to take part in the competition.

Format and Schedule

The FA Cup follows a knockout tournament format, where losing teams are eliminated, and winners progress to the next round. In total, there are 14 rounds, including the final held at Wembley Stadium.

The schedule begins with the qualifying rounds in August, featuring teams from level 10 and above. Qualifying rounds continue until October, culminating in the completion of the qualifying stage.

The main FA Cup competition starts in November, with EFL clubs from the 3rd and 4th levels entering the first round proper. Replays are allowed until the 4th round, after which there are no replays. Instead, matches that end in a draw move into extra time and, if needed, penalties.

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The Premier League and Championship clubs, along with level 1 and level 2 teams, join from the third round. With each subsequent round, teams are eliminated, leading up to the grand final in May.

The FA Cup Trophy

The iconic FA Cup Trophy, designed and made by Fattorini and Sons, has a rich history of its own. The trophy, commissioned in 1911, weighs 13.61 lbs (6.3 kg) and stands at 61.5cm in height. It replaced the original trophy, which was stolen in 1895. The current trophy, designed by Thomas Lyte, has been in use since 1992.

Winners and Record Holders

Arsenal holds the record for the most FA Cup trophies won, with an impressive 14 titles. Arsenal and Manchester United share the record for the most appearances in the final, both having reached it 21 times. Other notable records include Chelsea’s three consecutive final losses between 2020-2022 and Manchester United’s nine final losses.


The team that emerges victorious in the FA Cup earns a £2 million prize, while the runner-up receives a £1 million windfall. Additionally, every round offers prize money to participating teams, regardless of whether they win or lose. The winners also secure a direct entry into the group stages of the Europa League, representing a significant opportunity for further success.

Carabao Cup


The Carabao Cup, formerly known as the League Cup, is the second-oldest domestic competition in England. The cup has undergone name changes throughout its history to reflect sponsorship deals. Currently, Carabao sponsors the competition, hence its name. Previous sponsors include Coca-Cola, Capital One, and Carling.

The first edition of the Carabao Cup took place in 1960, with Aston Villa emerging as the inaugural winners. The current title holders are Manchester United.

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Eligibility and Teams

Unlike the FA Cup, the Carabao Cup only involves the 92 English Football League (EFL) teams from levels 1 to 4. Non-league teams are not eligible to participate, resulting in fewer upsets in this competition.

The teams involved in each league are as follows:

  • 20 Premier League teams
  • 24 Championship teams
  • 24 League One teams
  • 24 League Two teams

Participation by Premier League clubs depends on their qualification for European competitions. Those involved in the Champions League, Europa League, and Conference League enter the competition in Round Three. Premier League clubs not involved in any European competitions enter in Round Two.

Format and Schedule

The Carabao Cup follows a straightforward knockout format, with winners advancing and losers being eliminated. The competition comprises just 7 rounds compared to the FA Cup’s 14.

A single-round knockout system is in place until the semifinals. When four teams reach the semifinals, they face off against each other in two-legged ties. Unlike the FA Cup, the Carabao Cup does not have away goal rules. In the event of a draw after normal time, the tie goes straight to penalties.

The final is a single-game affair held at Wembley. If the match ends in a draw after normal time, extra time is played. If the tie remains unresolved, penalties determine the outcome.

The Carabao Cup Trophy

The EFL Cup trophy, designed and manufactured by Mappin & Webb, still retains its original design. Weighing 6.5 lbs (2.967 kg) and measuring approximately 27cm by 20.5cm, the trophy holds an estimated value of £20,000. After brief interludes with sponsorship-specific trophies, the original cup made a comeback in the 1990/91 season and has been in use ever since.

Winners and Record Holders

Liverpool holds the record for the most Carabao Cup victories, having won it nine times. They also boast the highest number of final appearances, with 13. West Ham United, Everton, Newcastle United, Sunderland, Bolton, and Southampton have all reached the final twice without ever lifting the trophy. Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho are the most decorated players in Carabao Cup history, having won it six times each.

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The winners of the Carabao Cup receive £100,000 in prize money, while the runners-up receive £50,000. Although the prize money is comparatively lower than that of the FA Cup, the winners secure a direct spot in the group stages of the European Conference League, thereby expanding their European prospects.


Q: Which cup competition is older, the FA Cup or the Carabao Cup?
A: The FA Cup is the older of the two, dating back to 1871, while the Carabao Cup started in 1960.

Q: How many teams are involved in the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup?
A: The FA Cup welcomes 736 teams, including non-league teams from level 9 divisions. In contrast, the Carabao Cup involves only the 92 English Football League teams from levels 1 to 4.

Q: What is the prize money for winning each cup competition?
A: The team that wins the FA Cup receives £2 million, while the Carabao Cup winners receive £100,000. These amounts differ due to the disparity in the competitions’ commercial value.


The FA Cup and the Carabao Cup are distinct in terms of format, eligibility, teams, and prize money. Each competition holds its own significance and allure. While some may attempt to downplay the importance of domestic cups, winning these trophies contributes to a club’s glory and reputation. Moreover, the prizes and opportunities they bring make them relevant for all clubs, regardless of their stature.

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