La Liga vs Copa del Rey

FA Cup vs EFL (League) Cup – What’s The Difference?

Last updated on October 6th, 2021

When you are following the English football season, you may notice that the English teams are playing 2 different cup competitions: the FA Cup and EFL Cup.

Why are there 2 different domestic cups in England, and how are they different?

Here’s what you need to know:

The difference between the FA Cup and the EFL Cup

The FA Cup is the older cup competition in England, and consists of a larger number of English football teams (736). Meanwhile, the EFL Cup (or League Cup) started 89 years later and only consists of 92 teams from the Premier League and the EFL.

Here is an in-depth explanation about the difference between these 2 competitions:

Competition format

Both competitions follow a knockout tournament format. This means that the losing team will be eliminated from the competition, while the winners will progress to the next round.

This is quite different from the Premier League, which follows a double round-robin format. This means that every team in the Premier League will play against all other 19 teams, both home and away.

In the Premier League, it is all about being consistent, and you can still afford to lose some matches. However, for the FA Cup, you will need to ensure that you win every match!

You can view my comparison between the Premier League and the FA Cup to find out more about these differences.

Eligible teams

The FA Cup includes teams all the way from tier 10 of English football to the Premier League. As such, there are many more teams which compete in the FA Cup (736).

Meanwhile, the EFL Cup only consists of teams from the Premier League and the English Football League (EFL). Only 92 teams are involved, which includes:

CompetitionNumber
of Teams
Premier League20
EFL Championship24
EFL League One24
EFL League Two24

Due to this restriction for the teams in the EFL Cup, there are lesser chances of having any huge upsets in this tournament.

Nevertheless, there has been quite a few upsets, such as when Arsenal lost to Bradford City in the 2012/13 League Cup Quarter-Finals!

Frequency and duration of competition

Both the EFL Cup and the FA Cup occur every season as part of the English football calendar.

The EFL Cup has fewer number of rounds (7) compared to the FA Cup, which has 14 rounds. This is due to the FA Cup having many more teams compared to the EFL Cup!

Interestingly, the EFL Cup and the FA Cup start at the same time, in August of the football season. However, the EFL Cup usually ends around February in the next year of the football season.

Meanwhile, the FA Cup ends much later in May. The FA Cup final is usually held after the last match of the Premier League.

Round which the Premier League clubs enter

For the FA Cup, the Premier League teams will start to play in the Third Round. This is when there are 32 teams left in the FA Cup.

Meanwhile, the round which the Premier League clubs enter the EFL Cup differ based on their Europe qualification in the previous season.

Clubs that did not qualify for the Champions League or the Europa League will enter the EFL Cup in Round Two. Meanwhile, those that qualified for Europe will enter the EFL Cup in Round Three.

By only entering in Round Three, this helps to reduce the number of matches your team needs to play!

Replays and extra time

For the EFL Cup, matches will go straight to penalties in the first 5 rounds if the scores are level after 90 minutes.

EFL Cup Draw Rules First Five Rounds

This is because the EFL wanted to reduce the fatigue of players by cutting out the extra 30 minutes of play.

However, when your team is playing in the semi-finals and the final, there will be extra time first before penalties.

EFL Cup Extra Time And Penalty Rules

This format is different from the FA Cup.

For matches that end in a draw up till the Fourth Round of the FA Cup, a replay will be held at the stadium of the away team.

The Fourth Round of the FA Cup contains 32 teams, which is two rounds before the quarter finals.

For matches from the Fifth Round till the final, there are no replays. Instead, the winner will be decided by extra time and penalties.

Double-legged ties

The EFL Cup has double-legged ties in the semi-finals. This means that the teams will play two matches in the semi-finals: both home and away.

The European competitions used to have the away goals rule, which made their 2-legged ties more exciting. However, away goals do not count in the EFL Cup.

Here was the highlights for the second-leg semi-final match between Tottenham and Chelsea in the 2018/19 EFL Cup.

Meanwhile, the FA Cup does not have any double-legged ties for the semi-finals.

The only time that it has double-legged ties would be if the FA Cup match ends in a draw up till the Fourth Round.

Stadium hosting the final match

For the finals of both of these cup competitions, they are both hosted in the Wembley Stadium.

Wembley is the current national stadium of the English national football team.

It would be a dream for most players to be able to play in this prestigious stadium!

Prizes for winning competition

Here are some of the prizes that your team will receive when they win either cup:

FA CupEFL Cup
Prize moneyHigherLower
Europe qualificationEuropa LeagueConference League
FA Community Shield?YesNo

The prize money is considerably less for winning the EFL Cup compared to the FA Cup. This may be a reason why the top Premier League teams may not be playing their full strength teams in these cup matches.

Instead, the top teams in the Premier League usually play their youth players or reserves during the EFL Cup matches.

This could also be due to the extremely congested schedule that these Premier League teams have.

The winners of the FA Cup will play in the Europa League, while the winners of the EFL Cup will be playing in the UEFA Conference League.

The Conference League is considered to be the 3rd tier of European football.

By winning either trophy, your team will be able to play in Europe! However, the ‘tier’ that you play in depends on which trophy you win.

Verdict

Here is a summarised comparison between the FA Cup and the EFL Cup.

FA CupEFL Cup
Competition formatKnockoutKnockout
Eligible teamsPremier League
to Tier 10
Premier League to
EFL League Two
FrequencyAnnuallyAnnually
Duration14 rounds7 rounds
PeriodAug – MayAug – Feb
Round which Premier
League clubs enter
Third RoundRound Two
/ Three
ReplaysPresentAbsent
Extra time
From Fifth
Round onwards
Only for semi-
finals and final
Double-legged tiesAbsentPresent (Only for
semi-final)
Stadium hosting
the final
WembleyWembley
Prize moneyHigherLower
Europe
qualification
Europa LeagueConference League
Entry to FA
Community Shield?
YesNo

As such, there are quite a few differences between these cups!

Is the FA Cup the same as the Carabao Cup?

The FA Cup is a separate competition from the Carabao Cup. The EFL (or League) Cup was named the Carabao Cup due to sponsorship reasons, and the EFL Cup is a separate competition from the FA Cup.

The English football season has both of these cups, and they are 2 separate competitions from each other!

Why is there both a League Cup and FA Cup?

The FA Cup is governed by the Football Association, while the League Cup is organised by the English Football League (EFL). Due to the presence of 2 governing bodies in English football, this has resulted in 2 different cup competitions that English teams will play in.

The Football Association and the English Football League are 2 separate associations that are involved in English football. The Football Association governs the professional clubs that are involved in English football competitions.

Meanwhile, the English Football League only governs the 3 leagues which are immediately below the Premier League:

  1. EFL Championship
  2. EFL League One
  3. EFL League Two

In fact, the League Cup (or EFL Cup) was started due to a disagreement between the EFL and the FA!

While this has added an extra competition that a team can win, it adds more matches to an already congested schedule!

This may be the reason why some of the bigger teams choose to rotate their players and field their reserves for these matches.

Which is more prestigious: the FA Cup or EFL Cup?

The FA Cup can be considered as the more prestigious trophy compared to the EFL Cup, especially due to its longer history. Furthermore, winning the FA Cup grants you a place in the UEFA Europa League, while your team will only enter the UEFA Conference League by winning the EFL Cup.

If your team wins the FA Cup, they will be able to play in the FA Community Shield.

The FA Community Shield is seen to be the curtain raiser to mark the start of the English football season.

Since your team is able to receive much better prizes when they win the FA Cup, it may be considered as the more prestigious cup compared to the EFL Cup.

Conclusion

The EFL Cup and the FA Cup are different cup competitions that form a part of the English football season. There are some slight differences between these 2 cups, especially for the number of clubs that they include.

Although these 2 cups are present, the FA Cup may be considered to be the more prestigious trophy.

This could be due to the FA Cup’s longer history, as well as the better prizes you’ll receive for winning it!

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