The act of selecting names randomly to decide opponents in a sporting contest.
The FA Cup draw is the fair and open method used to organise the various fixtures of this fiercely-contested tournament.
Teams from the first 10 tiers of the English football pyramid are paired off against each other at random. In theory, the first team drawn in each pair has the advantage as they play at their home stadium.
How does the draw work?
All of the teams in the six qualifying rounds are drawn against each other on a regional basis. The FA does this to reduce travel costs for the smaller clubs in these preliminary stages.
From the First Round of the FA Cup, all teams are each allocated a number. The Football League teams that enter in the First Round are allocated numbers 1-48 in alphabetical order. So, for example, Bristol City will have a low number, whereas York City will be at 48.
The winners from the Fourth Qualifying Round receive a number (49 onwards) as they come through, rather than in alphabetical order.
Teams that make it through to the Quarter-Finals receive new numbers related to how they were drawn in the Fifth Round. So if Arsenal are in the Quarter-Finals and get the number 1, it’s not because the club’s name begins with the first letter of the alphabet. Instead, it’s because their old number came out of the bowl first in the previous round.
Before every ‘proper’ round, numbered balls representing each team in the competition are placed in a spinning bowl.
A celebrity (usually an ex-footballer) will take out the balls, one at a time, from the bowl. The team whose number is taken out first in each matchup plays their match at home to the team whose number is taken out second.
System of byes
None of the teams in the FA Cup are seeded, which makes for some interesting draws. Yet a system of byes ensures that teams in the top tiers don’t go into the draw before the Third Round.
The ‘magic of the FA Cup’
The fact that the FA Cup draw is random means that you will often see non-league teams with tiny grounds and hardly any supporters play huge Premier League clubs with global fan bases.
Results do usually go as expected, with the bigger teams winning and going through to the next round, but on occasion, the smaller teams beat the larger teams.
In fact, the FA Cup is well-known for the many ‘giant killings’ that have occurred in its history, and this draw system helps create these opportunities.