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FA Cup 2019 Guide

April 16th, 2019 News & Events, Sports Guides

The FA Cup competition is pretty unique in its size and the potential for ‘giant killer’ situations to take place. This is where a small, non-league with tiny grounds and hardly any supporters play a Premier League club with a global fan base…and win! For more information on the final, check out our FA Cup final guide.

How does the FA Cup work?

The FA Cup works in two parts: qualifying and ‘proper’, with eligible teams being paired up at random. In the six qualifying rounds, teams are drawn against each other based on their location. The reason for this is to reduce travel costs for the smaller clubs which play in the early stages.

After the qualification rounds, we get into the competition proper. At this stage, numbered balls are placed in a spinning bowl. The numbers represent a team in the competition, with numbers given out in alphabetical order from 1-48. The winners from the Fourth Qualifying Round receive a number from 49 as they come through, rather than in alphabetical order. However, teams which get through to the Quarter-Finals receive new numbers based on how they were drawn in the Fifth Round.

You’ve probably caught an FA Cup draw on the TV at some point. It’s where (usually) an ex-footballer picks out one ball at a time. The team whose ball is taken out first in each pairing, plays their match at home to the team whose number is taken out second.

How many rounds are in the FA Cup?

There are a total of 14 rounds in the FA Cup: 6 qualifying rounds which are followed by 6 “proper” rounds and then finished up with the semi-finals and the final. 32 winners from the Fourth Qualifying Round advance to the First Round Proper, where 48 teams from League One (Level 3) and League Two (Level 4) of English football, operating in the English Football League, enter the competition. Top teams, like those from the Premier League enter at the Third Round Proper, at which point there are 64 teams remaining in the competition.

We’ll take a closer look at the different rounds that make up the FA Cup later on in this guide. Or you can head there now.

How many teams play in the FA Cup?

It’s pretty much an open door scenario when it comes to the FA Cup. The tournament is open to any eligible club from the top 10 tiers of the English football league system. That includes the 92 professional clubs in the Premier League (Level 1) and the English Football League (Levels 2 to 4), as well as several hundred “non-league” teams from the National League System (Levels 5 to 10). This year, 736 teams took part overall with 644 taking part in the qualifying competition and 124 teams playing in the main competition. The record number of teams competing was a whopping 763 in 2011/12.

Do FA Cup winners qualify for the Champion’s League or Europa League?

Winning the FA Cup means that the team qualifies for the following season’s UEFA Europa League, entering at the group stage. Previously, they were entered into the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup but that no longer exists. One of the cool things about this European qualification is that it still stands, even if the team is relegated or isn’t in the English top flight.

What is the FA Cup prize money?

The FA Cup prize money for the 2018/19 season has doubled from the £13 million available in the previous season, meaning that even those who are knocked out in the preliminary rounds will see some financial reward. Here’s a breakdown of how the FA Cup prize money will be allocated:

Extra Preliminary Round winners (184) £2,250 Losers receive £750
Preliminary Round winners (160) £2,890 Losers receive £960
First Round Qualifying winners (116) £6,000  
Second Round Qualifying winners (80) £9,000  
Third Round Qualifying winners (40) £15,000  
Fourth Round Qualifying winners (32) £25,000  
First Round Proper winners (40) £36,000  
Second Round Proper winners (20) £54,000  
Third Round Proper winners (32) £135,000  
Fourth Round Proper winners (16) £180,000  
Fifth Round Proper winners (8) £360,000  
Quarter-Final winners (4) £720,000  
Semi-Final winners (2) £1,800,000  
Semi-Final losers (2) £900,000  
Final runners-up (1) £1,800,000  
Final winners (1) £3,600,000  

(The numbers in brackets show the how many teams are paid in that round)  

When to start betting on the FA Cup

Because the FA Cup is a season-long competition, there are a lot of opportunities for you to start betting. But when it the best time to jump on those FA Cup odds? That really depends on you.

The competition is always a viable source of bets, if you’re willing to put money on smaller teams. However, if you have little knowledge of non-league and lower league football, you might prefer to wait until the bigger teams join in Round 3 before starting your FA Cup betting.

The FA Cup winner odds will be better the earlier you look, but with 700+ teams taking part in the preliminary rounds, it’s anyone’s guess who’ll make it through to the final. The FA Cup winner odds will shorten as we approach the Final.

OddsMonkey Premium members can stay up-to-date with the latest FA Cup info, odds and offers with OddsMatcher and over in our matched betting forum.

What bets should I place?

That’s completely up to you! And there are so many different types of bet to choose from in this competition. For example, betting markets for the FA Cup include: individual matches, outright cup winners, scores and goal scorers. But with so many options, how do you know which bets to place?

If you’re thinking at betting on the outright winner, for example, you could look at the top teams in the Premier League and see how their form has been this season. Of course, odds are also a fair indicator of how a team is expected to perform, so you could look at what the bookmakers are saying. Or, for individual matches, it might be worth carrying out some research of your own. You could take a look at a team’s previous cup performance, especially if you’re betting on a smaller team early on in the competition.

However, there’s another way you could look at making money when betting on the FA Cup. With matched betting you can extract value from bookmakers’ offers and turn free bets into real money. OddsMonkey Premium members get access to all the latest FA Cup offers, tools like the OddsMatcher and 1 to 1 support.

FA Cup round guide

In this section, we’ll take a closer look at the FA Cup qualifying rounds and the ‘proper’ rounds what happens in each. We’ll also touch on the FA Cup draw dates and a ..

Stage Round Draw Date First Match Date
Qualifying rounds Extra Preliminary Round July 6th 2018 August 10th 2018
Preliminary Round August 24th 2018
First Round Qualifying August 28th 2018 September 8th 2018
Second Round Qualifying September 10th 2018 September 22nd 2018
Third Round Qualifying September 24th 2018 October 6th 2018
Fourth Round Qualifying October 8th 2018 October 20th 2018
Main Tournament First Round Proper October 22nd 2018 November 10th 2018
Second Round Proper November 12th 2018 December 1st 2018
Third Round Proper December 3rd 2018 January 4th 2019
Fourth Round Proper January 7th 2019 January 26th 2019
Fifth Round Proper January 28th 2019 February 16th 2019
Quarter-Finals February 18th 2019 March 16th 2019
Semi-Finals March 18th 2019 April 6th 2019
Final May 18th 2019


Round Main Date Number of Fixtures Clubs Remaining
Extra Preliminary Round August 11th 2018 184 736 → 552
Preliminary Round 25 August 2018 160 552 → 392
First Qualifying Round 8 September 2018 116 392 → 276
Second Qualifying Round 22 September 2018 80 276 → 196
Third Qualifying Round 6 October 2018 40 196 → 156
Fourth Qualifying Round 20 October 2018 32 156 → 124

Let’s start with the FA qualifying rounds, including the FA Cup draw dates…

Extra Preliminary Round

The Extra Preliminary Round draw was held on July 6th 2018, with fixtures for the 2018/19 season played on August 10th, 11th and 12th 2018. 368 teams entered the competition at this stage, coming from levels 8-10 of English football.

Preliminary Round

Also taking place on July 6th 2018 was the draw for the Preliminary Round. Fixtures were played from August 24th-27th 2018. Joining the 184 winners from the Extra Preliminary Round were 136 teams from levels 7 and 8 of English football, meaning 320 teams took part in this stage of the competition.

First Qualifying Round

The FA Cup 1st qualifying round draw was held on August 28th 2018 and fixtures were played on September 7th, 8th and 9th 2018. 232 teams took part in this stage of the competition, including the 160 winners from the Preliminary Round. 72 teams also entered the FA Cup 1st qualifying round draw from the four leagues at Level 7 of English football.

Second Qualifying Round

The FA Cup 2nd qualifying round draw took place on September 10th 2018, with 160 teams taking part at this stage. Fixtures were played on September 23rd and 24th 2018. The 116 winners from the First Qualifying Round were joined by 44 more from the two leagues at Level 6 of English football.

Third Qualifying Round

September 24th 2018 saw the FA Cup 3rd qualifying round draw take place. Fixtures were played on October 6th 2018, with the 80 winning teams from the Second Qualifying Round taking part. No additional teams entered at this stage.

Fourth Qualifying Round

The FA Cup 4th qualifying round draw was held on October 8th 2018, with fixtures played on the 20th of that month. 64 teams took part in this qualifying round: the 40 winners from the Third Qualifying Round and the 24 members of the National League (representing Level 5 of English football).

First Round

The FA Cup 1st round draw took place on October 22nd 2018, with Dennis Wise and Dion Dublin doing the honours. All 40 First Round Proper ties were to be played on the weekend of 10 November with 13 replays to be played on 20 and 21 November. 32 teams from the qualifying competition joined 48 teams from League One and League Two to compete in this round.

Second Round

The FA Cup 2nd round draw took place on November 12th 2019. The 40 winners of the First Round Proper played on weekend of December 1st 2018. The lowest-ranked teams still in the competition at this stage were Guiseley, Slough Town, Southport, Stockport County and Woking (from Level 6 of English football).

Third Round

The FA Cup 3rd round draw was held on December 3rd 2018. 64 clubs took part in the Third Round Proper with the ties taking place from January 4th-7th 2019. The 20 winners of the Second Round Proper were joined by 44 teams from the Premier League and EFL Championship. Woking (Level 6) was the lowest-ranked team still in the competition at this stage.

Fourth Round

Conducted by Carl Ikeme and Robbie Keane, the FA Cup 4th round draw took place on January 7th 2019. All 16 Fourth Round ties were played from January 25th-28th. Level 5 team, Barnet, was the lowest-ranking (and only non-League side) left in the competition at this stage.

Fifth Round

The FA Cup 5th round draw was held on January 28th 2019., with matches played from February 15th-18th. This is the first season where extra time and penalties have replaced replays as the method for resolving a drawn tie at this stage.


The FA Cup quarter final draw took place on February 18th 2019. Matches were played on the weekend of March 16th 2019. The two lowest-ranking teams left in the competition at this stage were Millwall and Swansea City (Level 2).


The FA Cup semi-final draw took place on 17 March 2019 and saw Manchester City paired with Brighton & Hove Albion and Watford drawn against Wolverhampton Wanderers. The matches will be played on April 6th and 7th respectively.


The Final will be played on 18 May 2019 at Wembley Stadium.

If you’re thinking about betting on the FA Cup 2019, take a look at matched betting. You can find out more about it in our guide: What is Matched Betting?