April 6 and 7 see the semifinals of the FA Cup play out at Wembley Stadium in London; here is how to watch on TV, and why I think you should.
First, if you need a refresher on what the FA Cup is, it’s a tournament for some 700+ clubs all over England, with no bracket or seeding or anything.
It regularly throws up wonderful fixtures with big clubs having to go play at little ones, and like tiny clubs such as Newport County making a historic run, as they did this year. Newport beat local rivals Wrexham, then Leicester City of the Premier League and Middlesbrough of the Championship, earning them a home game with league champions Manchester City. They lost, 4-1, but it was a memorable day for them, to say the least.
But since 2008, the semifinals have been held at Wembley Stadium, England’s national stadium which also hosts the national team as well as all cup and playoff finals. This is what they mean when they talk about “Going to Wembley.”
This Year’s Matchups
The first game on April 6 is Manchester City against Brighton and Hove Albion. City are a well-known quantity, of course, having won the Premier League and League Cup last year, the League Cup again earlier this year, and generally being a monster in the world of football.
Their signature song, sure to be belted out pregame, is “Blue Moon”:
Brighton, on the other hand, are a lesser-known club outside of England. They come from the south coast of England, about an hour by train from London, and haven’t made it this far in the competition since 1983, when they beat Sheffield Wednesday and then lost to Manchester United in the final. They haven’t played a non-league game Wembley since 2004, when they won the playoff final to get to the second tier.
So they will be extremely excited to be there, even if daunted by the opposition. Watch for a rousing rendition of “Sussex by the Sea” before the game. Here they are singing it on their promotion to the Premier League:
On April 7 it’s Watford against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Watford are from the northern suburbs of London, so they have by far the shortest trip that just about any semifinalist could have. For me, though, the story here is Wolves.
Wolverhampton, whom you can get to know better here, have been a revelation this season in the Premier League. Truly, though, it started over the last couple of seasons, when new owners threw serious money into the club, they started buying top-flight international players, and they installed an attractive style of play that has thrilled their long-suffering fans in the West Midlands.
They are new in the Premier League this year but currently sit seventh in the table, and along the way, they have knocked both Liverpool and Manchester United out of the FA Cup. They have also had success already at Wembley this season, winning 3-1 against Tottenham, who were still using Wembley as their “home ground.” Here is Wolves’ third, scored in front of their traveling fans:
The song you want to listen for here is “Nuno Had a Dream,” one of my favorites in the game right now. Nuno refers to their head coach, Nuno Espirito Santo; I am pretty sure his name means Holy Spirit! Anyway, the “wonder kid from Porto” is Ruben Neves, one of several Portugese internationals on the team — Portugal being the reigning European champions, oh by the way.
Being on their way back refers not only to their status as giants in the 1950s but also the fact that just five years ago they suffered a second straight relegation, leaving them in League One.
Nuno had a dream,
To build a football team,
With Chinese owners and a wonder kid from Porto,
With 5 at the back,
And pace in attack,
We’re on our way back.
And here’s a good version of “Nuno Had a Dream:
Win or lose, Wolves fans are going to sing that a lot this weekend!
How Watch the FA Cup on Television
As I mentioned above, Americans can stream the FA Cup on ESPN+ — and nowhere else. Sign up here.
For other countries:
- Canada: SportsNet.
- Ireland: BT Sport
- India: Sony ESPN
- Australia: I’m not sure!
- Everybody else: Check this listing.