The first season I started following Premier League Soccer, I got extremely confused when all of a sudden Sunderland was playing against teams that weren’t in the EPL, and the wins (or losses) wouldn’t show up in the standings. Eventually, I learned of the Cup tournaments, which include teams from multiple levels of the various English soccer leagues and are separate from league play.
The biggest of the tournaments is the FA cup whose field is so large, it seems like all of England lined up and counted off to eleven like choosing sides in gym class. All these teams (762 teams were accepted into the tournament this year) go through round after round of preliminaries just to reach the first round (about 90 teams are given exemptions to the qualifying rounds with half of those exempt through the third round). At this point there are 124 clubs remaining, and we can start to draw brackets that make some sense.
This Saturday, Sunderland, having won their first match in the tournament against Barrow (one of four teams to advance to the third round from the English Conference, the fifth-highest conference in England), moves on to round 4 to take on Portsmouth, bottom-dweller in the Premier League this season.
After the jump – brackets!