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FA Cup replays scrapped from first round starting next season

London: The Football Association (FA) has announced a significant overhaul to the FA Cup format, revealing the scrapping of replays from the first round onwards starting from next season.

This decision, made in collaboration with the Premier League, marks a departure from the traditional structure of the tournament and comes in response to changes in the football calendar driven by the expanded UEFA competitions.

Previously, replays were eliminated from the fifth round onwards, but the forthcoming changes will see their removal from earlier rounds as well. The decision reflects the mounting pressure on the domestic calendar, particularly with the Champions League set to feature an additional 64 games from next season, alongside FIFA’s announcement of an expanded 32-team Club World Cup in 2025.

While the move aims to streamline the competition and reduce fixture congestion, it has drawn criticism from the English Football League (EFL), which oversees tiers two, three, and four. The EFL expressed disappointment over the decision, highlighting the financial implications for lower division clubs that heavily rely on replay matches for vital income, particularly when facing bigger teams.

Despite these concerns, the FA emphasized its commitment to ensuring all rounds of the FA Cup are played at weekends, with no Premier League matches scheduled on weekends designated for the fourth and fifth rounds and the quarter-finals. Notably, teams from the third and fourth tiers of English football enter the FA Cup in the first round, with Premier League and Championship clubs joining from the third round.

While replays will be scrapped from the FA Cup, qualifying rounds for clubs outside the top four tiers will still retain this tradition. The decision is part of a six-year agreement aimed at revitalizing the FA Cup and enhancing its scheduling amidst an increasingly crowded football calendar.

In addition to the changes in the FA Cup format, the agreement entails the removal of the mid-season break from the Premier League calendar. The English top-flight will kick off the 2024/25 season in mid-August to allow players a consecutive three-week break, aligning with medical and technical advice.

Moreover, the Premier League has pledged to allocate up to an additional £33 million ($41 million) for grassroots football, reinforcing its commitment to supporting the development of the sport at all levels. The FA hailed the agreement as a significant step forward in securing sustainable funding for football, ensuring the longevity and vitality of the sport.

As the FA Cup semi-finals approach, with Manchester City facing Chelsea and Manchester United taking on Coventry at Wembley this weekend, the announcement sets the stage for a new era in English football, characterized by innovation and collaboration between key stakeholders.

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