Premier League vs FA Cup

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

Last updated on March 2nd, 2022

If you’ve just started following the English football season, you may be confused over some of the competitions. 2 of the major competitions that English teams play in are the Premier League and the FA Cup.

So how are they different from each other?

Here’s what you need to know:

The difference between the Premier League and FA Cup

The Premier League is a double round-robin competition that involves the top 20 English teams. Meanwhile, the FA Cup involves over 700 English teams from the various divisions of English football. It is a knockout style of competition, where teams are out of the competition if they lose a match.

Here is an in-depth explanation the differences between both competitions:

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Number of teams involved

The Premier League is a league that contains the top 20 teams in the English leagues.

In fact, the Premier League actually used to contain 22 teams, before finally reducing to 20 teams!

Meanwhile, 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 both the FA Cup and the Premier League, if they are eligible for both.

Frequency and duration of the competition

Both competitions are held annually, as part of the English football season.

The FA Cup and Premier League also start at the same time, which is in August. This usually marks the start of the new football calendar.

However, you may only take note of the FA Cup starting in January. This is because that is when the Premier League teams will start to feature in the Third Round of the FA Cup.

The teams from tier 9 and 10 of English football have already played in the qualifying competition all the way back in August.

If some of these clubs make their way all the way to the 32 teams in the Third Round, they may play against teams from the Premier League or Championship.

This has led to some stunning upsets by these lower-league teams!

Number of matches played

If you are in the Premier League, you will play 38 matches. This is because you will play against the other 19 clubs in the league, both home and away.

You can find out more about how to read a soccer table with my guide here.

Meanwhile, the number of matches you play in the FA Cup has a huge variety. If you are a tier 9 or 10 club that makes it all the way to the final, you will play a total of 14 matches.

For a Premier League team that makes it all the way to the final, they will play a total of 6 games.

The number of matches you play in the FA Cup depends on the league you belong to and how well you perform.

Format of competition

The Premier League follows a double round-robin league format. Each team will play against the other 19 clubs in the league.

Meanwhile, the FA Cup is a knockout competition. This means that the winner of each match will progress on to the next stage. 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:

This is in contrast to the Premier League. Even if you do not win all your games at the start, it is still possible to be the Premier League champions.

One such example was Manchester City in the 2020/2021 season. They did not perform that well at the start of the league. However, they still managed to win the Premier League trophy in the end!

As such, the FA Cup can be considered as a sprint, while the Premier League is a marathon. So long as you are the most consistent team in the Premier League, you will be the champions after 38 games.

Only the FA Cup has a final

Due to the knockout round format of the FA Cup, there will eventually be two teams that are left in the competition. They will play each other in the FA Cup final.

These are the top 2 teams that have been winning each matchup up till the final!

Meanwhile, the Premier League does not have a final. It only has a final matchday (matchday 38), where all teams will play together at the same time.

There is a slight possibility that there may be a ‘final’ in the Premier League. This is because a playoff match is the last resort to decide who is the eventual champion of the Premier League.

This may happen when all the other tiebreakers have been exhausted, such as:

  1. Goal difference
  2. Number of goals scored
  3. Head-to-head records
  4. Number of away goals scored in a head-to-head match
  5. Playoff

If both teams have exactly the same record in the first 4 tiebreakers, a playoff will then be necessary to decide the winner!

Presence of replays

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.

The Premier League does this differently. If the match ends in a draw, both teams will get one point each. There is no need for each Premier League match to have a winner.

This is because the Premier League uses a league table to decide the placings of each club, based on the performances in each match.

Here are the points that the team will earn based on the result of each match:

ResultNumber of Points
Win3 points
Draw1 point
Lose0 points

Squad size

Each club in the Premier League can only have 25 players. A maximum of 17 players are considered to be ‘non-homegrown’.

You can read more about the ‘homegrown’ rule in the Premier League as well as other competitions in my guide here.

A maximum of 9 substitutes can be included in the match squad for Premier League teams.

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

As such, the number of substitutes is slightly lower for FA Cup squads compared to the Premier League squads.

Loan player rules

There are some differences in the rules regarding loan players in both competitions. For the Premier League, the rules explicitly state that loan players cannot play against their parent club in Premier League matches.

However, for the FA Cup, it may be possible for loan players to play against their parent club.

If a player is on a season-long loan, he is able to play against his parent club. 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.

As such, it is possible for a loan player to play against his parent club in the FA Cup, but not in the Premier League.

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

Prizes for winning competition

Here are some of the prizes a team will receive for winning both competitions:

Premier LeagueFA Cup
Prize MoneyHigherLower
Europe QualificationChampions LeagueEuropa League
Community ShieldQualifiesQualifies

When comparing the 2020/21 prize money that the winners received in the Premier League and the FA Cup, the Premier League winners received a higher amount of prize money (£153.9 million vs £3.4 million).

By winning the Premier League, you may be able to receive greater rewards. This is because:

  1. You are able to play in the Champions League
  2. You will receive a much higher prize money

If you’re wondering how the Champions League differs from the Premier League and FA Cup, you can view my comparisons to find out more.

Both the Premier League and FA Cup winners will face each other in next season’s FA Community Shield. This is usually the curtain-raiser before the start of the football season.

If the Premier League champion also wins the FA Cup, the runner-up for the Premier League will play in the Community Shield instead.

You can find out more about the prizes that the FA Cup winner will receive in my guide here.


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

Premier LeagueFA Cup
Number of
teams involved
of competition
of competition
August – MayAugust – May
Number of
matches per team
38Max of 14
Format of
of final
of replays
Squad size2518
Loan player rulesCannot play against
parent club
Can play against
parent club
Prizes for winningChampions LeagueEuropa League

Do FA Cup games count in Premier League?

FA Cup games do not count as matches played in the Premier League. This is because the FA Cup and the Premier League are two separate competitions that are hosted by the FA.

Even though some of the FA Cup matches are played during the weekends, they are separate matches that do not count in the 38 matches of the Premier League.

This is because both the FA Cup and Premier League are separate competitions from each other. The FA Cup is also a separate competition from the EFL (League) Cup, and you can find out more in my comparison here.

Which is more prestigious: the FA Cup or the Premier League?

The FA Cup has a much longer history, having been played ever since the 1871/72 season. However, the Premier League is more popular and has greater prizes for winning the competition, so it may be considered by most teams to be more prestigious.

The FA Cup gives you Europa League qualification, while the Premier League provides Champions League qualification. Since the Champions League is considered to be more prestigious, most players would prefer to win the Premier League instead.

Some may even say that the Champions League is even more prestigious compared to the World Cup!

The FA Cup has become ‘less important’ for most top clubs as well. They can be seen fielding their reserve teams to play in the earlier rounds, while they rest their top players for other important matches.

As such, the Premier League can be considered to be more prestigious compared to the FA Cup.


The Premier League and the FA Cup are 2 of the major English football competitions during the season. Both of them have their unique characteristics which make them exciting to watch.

In the end, the prizes that both competitions offer differ quite a bit. This may affect how high a club regards both competitions.

If you’re looking to buy the latest football merchandise from your favourite club, you can check out the latest deals at Kitbag.

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