Why this Weekend’s FA Cup Matches Will Separate the Casual Soccer Fans From the Hardcore

I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve heard that the FA Cup deserves more respect from football supporters. In fact, I’d argue the opposite. It doesn’t deserve more respect. If anything, it just deserves to be given a fair chance.

Let me explain. I’ve found that a FA Cup weekend often separates soccer fans from the fans who passionately support their club. For example, how many of you will wake up tomorrow for the early FA Cup kick-off to watch Brighton and Hove Albion against Newcastle United? Unless you’re a Brighton or Newcastle supporter, many of you may decide to sleep in tomorrow. As a result, the number of TV viewers tomorrow will certainly dwindle compared to a typical early morning Premier League match.

Some soccer fans who plan on skipping tomorrow’s early match will argue that many Premier League clubs field B-teams. Plus, they may argue that the winner of the FA Cup trophy doesn’t qualify for Europe, nor does it bring with it a large enough pot of cash. And the tournament, many will argue, is an unnecessary inconvenience during a busy time of the soccer season where a FA Cup run can have the damaging impact of hurting a club’s season in the Premier League where clubs have a greater opportunity to generate far more revenue from TV money.

While I’d agree with many of those arguments, the competition still offers a unique opportunity for a club to win silverware. Premier League squads are large enough and should have enough depth to compete in the league as well as in a cup competition. Each club has to make their own decision what priority the FA Cup is, weighing up the risks and rewards of a successful run. But I would argue that there is still enough quality, relevance and fascinating story lines (and matches) in the FA Cup to give it a fair opportunity.

Some of you may have noticed that watching the FA Cup on TV is a very different viewing experience than the Premier League. The camera angles are often not as good — due to a combination of fewer cameras used as well as the position where the main camera is situated. Plus, the sound of supporters at smaller grounds in the Football League and non-league don’t seem as loud as a Premier League stadium because of the smaller attendances as well as the poorer acoustics of small grounds.

On top of that, the TV broadcasters who televise the FA Cup in the UK (where we’ll see their images and hear the voices of their commentators) will be ITV and ESPN. So the broadcasts themselves will “feel” different instead of the glossy TWI/IMG feed that we’re accustomed to when watching Premier League matches each week.

So even watching a FA Cup game looks and feels different. But it does make the competition feel unique, which it is.

Another reason why the FA Cup isn’t as exciting for some American TV viewers is because they know less about the teams and players in the Championship and Football League. This season is worse than any in recent memory because beIN SPORT acquired the US media rights to the Championship, but have done the league a massive disservice by only showing a select number of matches. Even during the winter break when Serie A and La Liga games were no longer being shown on beIN SPORT, the Miami-based soccer network decided to show re-runs instead of live Championship matches. So, it’s no wonder than Americans and ex-pats feel so disenfranchised from lower league opposition than in perhaps a decade.

Having said all of this, there are some Americans who recognize the importance and quality of the FA Cup, who look forward to the third round (and subsequent rounds) and have a fervor for the competition that would surprise many Brits.

But for those of who are on the fence or who are not FA Cup believers, give the tournament a chance this weekend. Make time to watch the games. Even if the FA Cup matches feature teams you don’t support, make time to research the lower league opposition to gain a better understanding and appreciation of where they’ve come from and what it means to them. It’s a weekend to give time and respect to teams (that will be shown live on US TV and Internet this weekend; see below) such as Mansfield Town, Cheltenham, Macclesfield, Peterborough and Brighton.

This weekend is an occasion where, I believe, it separates the die-hard soccer supporter from the casual fan. The latter will only be interested in his or her team. The former will have a deeper appreciation for the sport as a whole. The difference is enormous.

I’ll be watching. I hope you will too.

Saturday, January 5:

Brighton vs Newcastle (FA Cup), 7:30am, FOX Soccer Plus and FOX Soccer 2Go
Southampton vs Chelsea (FA Cup), 10am, FOX Soccer
Peterborough vs Norwich (FA Cup), 10am, FOX Soccer Plus and FOX Soccer 2Go
Macclesfield vs Cardiff (FA Cup), FOX Soccer 2Go
West Ham United vs Manchester United (FA Cup), 12:15pm, FOX network and FOX Deportes (Note: Some FOX affiliates will be showing this game delayed; check local listings)

Sunday, January 6:

Swansea City vs Arsenal (FA Cup), 8:30am, FOX Soccer
Mansfield Town vs Liverpool (FA Cup), 11am, FOX Soccer

Monday, January 7:

Cheltenham vs Everton (FA Cup), 2:45pm, FOX Soccer Plus and FOX Soccer 2Go

20 thoughts on “Why this Weekend’s FA Cup Matches Will Separate the Casual Soccer Fans From the Hardcore”

  1. Agreed, I don’t have fox soccer plus but I’ll tune in to the fox soccer channel games.

    You never know what to expect, plus the lower league teams seem to play with a lot of heart and they always have some go to player that may make things exciting.

  2. I’ll be up and watching throughout the day. I was thinking this evening that the FA Cup has lost some of its “magic” in recent years. I would say that the popularity of the Premier League around the world has caused the FA Cup to lose some of its luster. It doesn’t seem have the same “prestigious” feel to it like the Champions League or the EPL has for fans abroad.
    The FA Cup should get more attention, it’s such a unique event for Americans to support. There is always the chance (no matter that it is rather slim) that a minnow will make it’s way to the top and knock off a big team. It should have a similar feel to as college basketball’s March Madness.
    Perhaps if it were marketed more to the American public as being similar to the bracket style tournament that the NCAA tourney is, then maybe it could pick up some more followers.
    Either way, I’ll be watching and enjoying it.

    1. Matt, I appreciate your honesty, but may I ask why you don’t care about the FA Cup and why you won’t at least give any of the games a chance tomorrow?

      The Gaffer

  3. no fox soccer plus but will watch on fsn.great competition love to see the minnows win since my club has become a minnow.GFYR beat Oldham Athletic.

  4. I wil definitely be up early, it’s great watching lower division clubs play their butts off and sometimes beat a premier league club. And to see the local houses and regular street in the background and the closeness of the cameras is great

      1. Don’t mean to slight you Mr. Latics and this is a legitimate question… out of curiosity, has Wigan ever qualified for the Europa League and/or what is their best finish in the FA Cup?

  5. I disagree about the weekend separating the die-hard supporter from the casual fan. If the networks would show a better variety of teams it would be one thing, but we get the same four teams (Man U, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Liverpool) who will likely field reserve teams on the main Fox Soccer network. The same four teams that are always on during Premier League weekends. What, they couldn’t find a way to fit Man City into the schedule too?

    Southampton already came out saying they are playing their second string, which you know Chelsea will also do. I expect similar from many of these big teams.

    Plenty of other interesting matchups like Fulham-Blackpool, Bolton-Sunderland, Leeds-Birmingham, Palace-Stoke and so on that might be more interesting.

  6. The fact that only two games will be viewable to the casual fan – although the game on fox is a big step – is a testament to the lack of a chance the FA cup is getting. If this is going to be one of Fox’s signature holdings along with champions, Europa, and the World Cup, they definitely need to utilise their other outlets (fsn, fx, etc.) to get some more of those 10 am games on. Possibly something like survival Sunday last season? (I wish)

  7. One of the best weekends of the football season. Boro v Hastings and Mansfield v The Bin dippers are both truly romantic match ups.

    Hopefully it’ll be a good chance to see what else is out there.

  8. beIN Sport has done a very poor job of showing Championship games as well as Carling Cup games. Why did they bid for the rights if they won’t show them? There are lots of good Championship games that are more entertaining than EPL games that US viewers are deprived of because they don’t get beIN or they aren’t shown on beIN.

    1. Good question. I think it was more of a land grab on beIN’s part, to take as many rights as they could. They’re planning on showing more games on its Web package, but the web package isn’t live yet.

      The Gaffer

  9. I actually really like the FA Cup. I hate whe there is no Engish football on tv. So Im glad when its on. But Foxsoccer as been running the history of the FA Cup all week, highlights of old matches, goals from Chelsea in the FA CUP and Legends of Liverpool and Manchester United goals of the FA Cup. It was very informative and I really liked seeing highlights of the past games. It was nice seeing Manchester United x Manchester City game from the 2003/2004 FA Cup season.

  10. Frankly the FA despite the recent lack of interest by the bigger clubs is what English football is about. The EPL is the worlds league. It is corporate like BP and appeals to the global audience. The FA Cup beings you what English football has been like for decades. It shows stadiums and teams that we seldom see.

    Love it.

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