The Football Association (FA) Cup third round is when the teams from the Premier League enter the competition. Traditionally, it is the most exciting round of the competition, since the smaller, poorer and weaker teams from the lower divisions or from outside the Football League have not yet suffered the full effects of their limitations, which grow stronger as the season continues. The richer Premier League clubs have squads of between 25 and 40 players and often competition for places is high, with international players on the substitutes’ bench. In the smaller clubs, after the winter months, epidemics of flu and injuries mean that sometimes reserve team players have to play (out of position) to make up an initial eleven and there are no substitutes available to play. It should be remembered that the Premier League is the top flight of English football, followed by three divisions : first, second and third, of professional clubs (92 in total). Below this structure is a system of non-league clubs, whose players are amateurs. The Nationwide Conference (22 clubs) feeds the Third Division, one team being promoted from the Conference and relegated from the Third Division every year. Three Minor leagues, divided into North, Centre and South, each with a premier, first and second division, feed the Conference league. This year, the main surprises were the following: Charlton Athletic (Premier League) 1 Dagenham (non-league) 1 Southend (Third Division) 0 Kingstonian (non-league) 1 Sunderland (Premier League) 0 Crystal Palace (First Division) 0 Huddersfield Town (First Division) 0 Bristol City (Second Division) 2 Burnley (First Division) 2 Scunthorpe United (Third Division) 2 Wimbledon FC (First Division) 2 Nottingham County (Second Division) 2 Cardiff City (Third Division) 1 Crewe Alexandra (first division) 1 The other premier league clubs all pass to the fourth round. The final this year will not be played at Wembley for the first time since 1922. Wembley Stadium in London is being demolished and there will be a completely new stadium on the site in three years’ time. Meanwhile, the FA Cup Final will be played in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium (Wales). This will be the first time that the FA Cup Final has ever been played outside England.

John Ashtead Pravda.Ru London

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