The English FA Trophy, which gives teams from levels 1-4 of the Non-League pyramid a chance to compete for glory and display their talent, is the most prestigious and thrilling football competition in the Non-League calendar.
The competition was developed in 1969 to cater for Non-League teams who paid their players so were ineligible for the Amateur Cup. Here, we will look at how the FA Trophy works.
In 1974 the FA abolished the distinction between official professional and amateur status and discontinued the Amateur Cup, and the Trophy soon had 300 entrants.
The competition had as many qualifying rounds in the beginning as was needed to get down to 32 teams. The structure was changed in 1999 to mirror the FA Cup. There are now six rounds before the semi-final stage. In the same way as the top teams in the FA Cup obtain byes, Football Conference teams were granted byes through the early rounds.
From 2008 onwards, the competition has been open to clubs playing in step 1-4 of the Non-League pyramid. Woking and the now defunct clubs Scarborough and Telford United hold the record for the most FA Trophy wins (3).
It's a knockout competition with randomly selected pairings. Ever since the 2021–2022 season, a penalty shootout is used to instantly settle any drawn games. This was included to reduce the number of fixtures.
Similar to the earlier rounds, the Semi-Finals are hosted by the team picked first from the hat, and if the scores are tied after 90 minutes, a penalty shootout is used to decide the winner.
The venue for the Final is Wembley Stadium. Previously though, they had been held at other major grounds including Upton Park and Villa Park. If the scores are tied at the end of regulation time, thirty minutes of extra time are played. If, at the conclusion of extra time, the scores are still tied, a penalty shootout is employed.
The competition has included a maximum of 320 teams as of 2022–2023 and the most recent non-league reorganisation, representing all clubs from levels 5-8 of the English football league system. There are three qualifying rounds in the competition (three fewer than in the FA Cup) and eight actual rounds. Step 4 (level 8) teams play in the first qualifying round, Step 3 (level 7) teams play in the third qualifying, Step 2 (level 6) teams play in the second round proper, and Step 1 (level 5) teams play in the third round proper (much like the FA Cup).
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