The Westfield FFA Cup trophy. Photo: TheFFACup.com.au
UPDATE: 2014 FFA Cup First Round: Pair of upsets, red cards highlight Day 1 of Australia’s inaugural cup competition
Australia’s version of the US Open Cup gets underway today as the FFA Cup commences its first season, completing a long wait for Australia’s football fans for a national knock-out competition.
Football has been played in Australia since 1880 but a cup competition has never successfully taken root with the country’s long-term surviving knock-out competitions taking place at the state level.
The most recent attempt at an Australian Cup competition came to an end in 1996 when the NSL Cup wound up after 21 seasons, but only contained clubs from the top flight National Soccer League, with the 1996 champions being Collingwood Warriors, a defunct club, making Collingwood the reigning Australian Cup champion.
The previous iteration, a full Australian Cup ran from 1962-1968 while the most recent cup competition was nothing more than a preseason tournament for A-League clubs.
Since the end of the NSL Cup in 1996, Australia’s football landscape has changed dramatically, out is Soccer Australia, in is Football Federation Australia, while the NSL also fell away, replaced by the A-League.
More noticable than the A-League change is how the Socceroos standing on the international stage has changed. In 1996, Australia hadn’t qualified for the World Cup since 1974, but with their appearance at the 2014 World Cup marked the Socceroos’ third straight trip to the tournament.
The Westfield FFA Cup, sponsored by a shopping center corporation, presents an attempt to bring together the “new football” and “old soccer” movements as a number of former NSL clubs, now playing in state levels in Australia, will be competing in the FFA Cup.
The format of the FFA Cup is similar to the US Open Cup but with significant differences, in the not-to-distant past the US Open Cup used to be set up to favor Major League Soccer teams, but the FFA Cup does quite the opposite, with a Member Federation (i.e. lower division) club guaranteed to make the Semifinals.
At the draw for the opening round, which was broadcast on Fox Sports News, the 32 teams were divided in to to three pools. Pool A contained the four semifinalists of the previous A-League season, while Pool B contained the remaining six A-League clubs and Pool C contained the Member Federation clubs.
Teams from Pool B were all drawn against each other, while teams from Pool A were drawn against the four teams from Pool C before the remainder of the Pool C clubs faced one another. The draw going forward will keep Member Federation clubs away from A-League clubs as much as possible, which will allow three Member Federation clubs to make the Quarterfinals.
The other major difference between the US Open Cup and the FFA Cup comes in the form of the Wellington Phoenix. Every A-League club will compete in the FFA Cup and that includes the league’s lone New Zealand club, Wellington.
The First Round, the round of 32 teams, will commence on today (July 29) and will take a whole month to complete, with the final matches of the Round of 32 being played on August 20. At least one game per round will be broadcast live on Fox Sports thanks to a deal reached between the federation and cable provider FoxTel.
For 2014, the final will be played on December 16, a Tuesday, but going forward the match will be on a weekend, with speculation that the final will be played on Australia Day, January 26.
2014 FFA CUP FIRST ROUND SCHEDULE
Brisbane Strikers (QLDPL) at Broadmeadow Magic (NNSWPL)
Sydney Olympic (NSWPL) at Manly United (NSWPL)
Melbourne Knights (VICPL) at Olympic FC (QLDPL)
South Cardiff (NNSWPL) at South Springvale (VICD1)
Perth Glory (HAL) at Newcastle Jets (HAL)
St Albans Saints (VICPL1) at Parramatta FC (NSWPL2)
Tuggeranong United (ACTPL) at South Hobart (TL)
Wellington Phoenix (HAL) at Adelaide United (HAL)
Bentleigh Greens (VICPL) at Blacktown City (NSWPL)
Sydney FC (HAL) at Melbourne City FC (HAL)
Far North Queensland (QLDPL) at Sydney United 58 (NSWPL)
Western Sydney Wanderers (HAL) at Adelaide City (SAPL)
Palm Beach (QLDPL) at Hakoah Sydney City East (NSWSL1)
Brisbane Roar (HAL) at Stirling Lions (WAPL)
Central Coast Mariners (HAL) at South Coast Wolves (NSWPL)
Bayswater City (WAPL) at Melbourne Victory (HAL)
HAL – Hyundai A-League
QLDPL – Queensland Premier League
NNSWPL – Northern New South Wales Premier League
NSWPL – New South Wales Premier League
NSWPL2 – New South Wales Premier League Division Two
ACTPL – Australian Capital Territory Premier League
TL – T-League
SAPL – South Australia Premier League
WAPL – Western Australia Premier League
VICPL1 – Victorian Premier League Division One
VICD1 – Victorian State League Division One
NSWSL1 – New South Wales State League Division 1
Chris Hockman, who was born in Australia, is a freelance writer who also covers the sport for SanAntonioSoccerNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrishsport
FFA CUP PROMO