The FFA Cup is widely known as Australia’s answer to the famed FA Cup of the United Kingdom, encompassing football clubs of all levels across the country.
Previously, there was a guarantee for one non-A-League club to make it through to the semi-finals due to the way the fixture was designed but today, the rules have changed and it is now more unpredictable than ever.
The expansion of the A-League in recent years with the introduction of two new teams (Western United and Macarthur) has enabled those behind the scenes to make a drastic change regarding FFA cup qualification.
In 2019, all 10 A-League clubs gained an automatic pathway into the round of 32 and this number will not change, however there is now a guarantee that two sides in the nation’s top football competition will miss out.
Each year, the bottom four teams in the A-League will take part in a playoff system where 9th will take on 12th and 10th will take on 11th. The winners will go through to the round of 32 and the losers will not gain entry into the cup.
If this were to happen today, two of Wellington, Melbourne Victory, Newcastle and Perth would miss out on cup football entirely due to their poor league standing.
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This was not the only change, though. As eluded to before, there is now no guarantee that a non-A-League team will make it through to the semis.
The draw from the round of 32 onwards will now be randomised, creating more opportunities for lower league clubs to come up against comparative football giants; the classic David vs Goliath.
Previously it was decided that there would be a guaranteed ‘non-league’ vs ‘non-league’ match in each round leading up to the semis, ensuring the progression of a club not in the top flight, but this is no longer the case.
The round of 32 will be zone based where clubs in a similar geographical location will face off and then the round of 16 will be open slather, anyone can take on anyone.
The carrot dangled at the end of the road for the winner is now larger than ever with AFC Champions League qualification now on offer for the club that takes out the title, but there is a catch.
The stipulation is that to qualify for the Champions League, as has always been the case, the club in question must meet AFC Club Licensing regulations which would rule out a number of lower league clubs from contention.
So, while the club down the road that you walk past on the weekend might not be able to make it into Asia’s elite competition, there is now a greater chance than ever that they could play host to some of the nation’s top talent on any given matchday.
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