FA Cup vs Champions League

FA Cup vs Champions League – What’s The Difference?

Last updated on January 4th, 2022

The FA Cup and the Champions League are two major tournaments on the football calendar.

But how do they differ from one another?

Here’s what you need to know.

The difference between the FA Cup and the Champions League

The FA Cup is a cup competition that is held for English clubs during the football calendar. Meanwhile, the UEFA Champions League consists of a group stage and a knockout round and involves the top 32 clubs from the various European leagues.

Here is an in-depth explanation of these differences:

Number of teams involved

The FA Cup involves teams that come from all the different tiers of English football, all the way down to tier 10! As a result, 736 teams were involved in the 2020/21 FA Cup season.

There are some Welsh teams that play in England too. These teams can feature in the FA Cup during the various rounds.

Meanwhile, the Champions League contains the top 32 teams in European football.

However, this only measures the number of teams in the main competition. There will be quite a few teams that were involved in the qualifying rounds which do not make the cut.

Origin of teams

The FA Cup only contains teams that are from England. This includes teams that come from all the different tiers of English football, all the way down to tier 10! As a result, 736 teams were involved in the 2020/21 FA Cup season.

However, due to historical reasons, it may be possible that some Welsh teams can play in the FA Cup too!

Meanwhile, the Champions League consists of the top teams that come from the different UEFA countries. Currently, there are 55 member countries that are in UEFA.

To qualify for the UEFA Champions League, your team has to originate from a member country of UEFA. Otherwise, you will have to play in the continental competition where your country is from.

This gives a wide variety of teams that feature in the Champions League. One such team is FC Sheriff Tiraspol, which originates from Moldova.

This club gained prominence in the world after beating Real Madrid at home!

Frequency and duration of competition

Both competitions occur on a yearly basis, as part of the club football calendar.

The FA Cup starts in August, which is the same as the Premier League. However, the early rounds will only involve the lower tier teams in English football.

The teams from the Premier League will only start to feature in the Third Round of the FA Cup, which occurs around January each year.

Meanwhile, the Champions League usually runs the span of around 11 months, between June to May. The first few matches in June are also the qualifying rounds.

The group stages will only start in September, one month after the European football season has started.

Format of competition

The FA Cup is a pure knockout competition. This means that the winner of each match will progress on to the next stage. Meanwhile, the loser will automatically be eliminated from the competition!

As such, you will only have one chance in the FA Cup. If you lose just one match, you will no longer be able to play in the competition.

Here was Leicester City’s road to the 2020/21 FA Cup final, where they had to win all of their games:

For the Champions League, it consists of a group stage, and then a knockout round.

The top 2 teams from each group will progress onto the knockout round of the Champions League.

If you’re wondering what happens if the top teams have the same points in the group stages, you can check out this article to find out more.

During the knockout rounds of the Champions League, it is similar to that of the FA Cup. Once you lose a round, you will no longer be able to participate in the tournament.

This makes the stakes for each match really high!

Presence of double-legged ties

The Champions League contains 2 legs for each knockout round. This means that the teams will play both at home and away.

The Europa League is another competition that contains 2 legs for the knockout rounds too.

This is because the knockout rounds of the Champions League are played at the home stadium of both clubs. This ensures that there is no ‘unfair’ advantage of only one team playing in their home ground.

In this way, there is an equal chance for both teams to perform well in front of their fans!

However, this is not the case for the FA Cup. Each tie is only single-legged, and the club that hosts the match is decided in the draw that is conducted after each round.

The only time when there are ‘double’ legged matches in the FA Cup is when the match ends in a draw. This only happens for matches up till the Fourth Round.

This will mean that the club that was the away team will now host the match for the replay.

Number of matches played

The number of matches played in both competitions varies depending on your performance. This is because both competitions are knockout tournaments, where you will be knocked out once you lose one round!

In the FA Cup, you will play a total of 14 matches if you are a tier 9 or 10 club that makes it all the way to the final.

For a Premier League team that makes it all the way to the final, they will play a total of 6 games. However, this does not factor in the replays that you may have to play if you draw one round!

For the Champions League, the number of matches you play depends on how far you go into the competition.

Here are the number of matches you’ll play in total if you reach the final from the Group Stages:

of Matches
Group Stages6
Round of 162

As such, the maximum number of matches that you can play in the Champions League is 13. If your team gets knocked out in the earlier stages, they will play fewer matches.

Squad size

Each FA Cup squad can have a maximum of 18 players. This includes the first eleven, as well as 7 substitutes.

For the Champions League, the squad size is larger.

The first list (List A) has a maximum of 25 players, where 8 of them have to be homegrown players. Meanwhile, the second list (List B) consists of players who are born on or after 1 Jan 1995 as well as other requirements.

There can be an unlimited number of players who are registered on List B.

You can read more about the ‘homegrown’ rule in the Champions League and other competitions in my guide here.

Qualification for competition

In the FA Cup, so long as you are a team that is in the top 10 tiers of English football, you will be able to qualify for the cup.

Meanwhile, in the Champions League, there are teams that automatically qualify for the tournament. This can be based either on their league position, or their performance in the UEFA competitions.

If you win either the Champions League or the Europa League, your team will automatically qualify for the tournament.

The qualification is much tougher for the Champions League as it only includes the top 32 teams from UEFA countries!

Loan player rules

The rules for loan players playing against their parent club are similar for both competitions.

In the FA Cup, a player can play against his parent club if he is on a season-long loan.

For players who are on short term loans, they will need to obtain written consent from their parent club to allow them to play in the match.

A short term loan usually lasts between 3-6 months.

Unlike the Premier League, the Champions League does not mention anything in their rules regarding loan players. As such, players are able to play against their parent clubs too!

One of the more notable ones was when Philippe Coutinho played for Bayern Munich, against his parent club (Barcelona).

He came off the bench to score 2 goals and produce 1 assist against Barcelona!

You can read more about the loan players rules in the different leagues with my guide.

Rewards for winning competition

Here are the rewards you’ll receive when you win either competition:

FA CupChampions League
Prize MoneyLowerHigher
Qualification for next 
season’s European Competitions
Europa LeagueChampions League
for Super Cup
Community ShieldUEFA Super Cup

When comparing the 2020/21 prize money that the winners received in the FA Cup and the Champions League, the Champions League winners received a higher amount of prize money (£16 million vs £3.4 million).

This could probably be due to the Champions League having a greater pull due to the quality of the teams in the competition.

Winning the FA Cup is one way that you are able to play in next season’s Europa League. However, if you win the Champions League, you will be able to play in the Champions League Group Stages for the next season.

In terms of the Super Cup competitions that they play, the FA Cup winners will play against the Premier League winners in the FA Community Shield.

Meanwhile, the Champions League winners will play against the Europa League winners in the UEFA Super Cup.

As such, the winners of the Champions League will receive much better prizes compared to the FA Cup winners.


Here is a summary of the comparison between the FA Cup and the Champions League:

FA CupChampions League
Number of 
teams involved
of teams
EnglandUEFA Countries
of competition
of competition
10 months11 months
Format of
KnockoutGroup Stage + Knockout
Double legged ties?Only for replaysFor knockout rounds
except for final
Number of
matches played
Up to 14Up to 13
Squad size1825 + List B
Loan player rulesCan play against
parent club
Can play against
parent club
Prize moneyLowerHigher
Europa LeagueChampions League
Super CupFA Community ShieldUEFA Super Cup


Both the FA Cup and Champions League are important football competitions that happen during the season.

Due to the prestige that the Champions League has in terms of prize money and European qualification, most players will still hold this competition in higher regard!

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