FA Cup soccer has experienced a ragged journey of growth over the last 5-10 seasons. Once considered a secondary event in which aristocrats yawned and minnows flourished, the old championship is becoming more and more hotly contested among elite teams of the Premier League. Thanks in part to Manchester City leading by example in tournament play and boasting a series of recent goal-scoring records, rich soccer brands are now sensing that the path to overall success involves treating all competitions as primo chances at glory.
That does not mean that stronger Football Association Cup brackets full of UEFA representatives have flushed minnows out of the water in the 2020s. Lower-ranked clubs still know that a deep run in the FA Cup is their best path to ticket sales, pricier salaries, and a better roster, putting resources that Premier League brands would spend on EPL appearances into all-or-nothing FA Cup runs.
We have witnessed David-beats-Goliath in FA Cup upsets in the 2020s on behalf of League One and League Two clubs, and even neighborhood teams like Boreham Wood have managed to make noise with the heavy hitters.
Some will compare the plight of underdogs in 2023’s FA Cup to Champions League minnows, who have every chance to upset Real Madrid in Group Stage but can almost never be expected to last beyond the Round of 16. Yet the American basketball tournament “March Madness” is also a good parallel for state-side supporters new to domestic tournament football. If a Premiership team is having “too much” success in 3 or 4 competitions, those club members (and supporters can actually belong to a club in Europe, like a whole continent of Green Bay Packers stockholders) who remain anxious for a domestic league title will put pressure on team management to knock it off with the FA Cup and Europa League drama, and get a healthy starting-11 on the pitch against Chelsea Football Club.
That places any “FA Cup dynasty” bid in jeopardy of erratic lineups and preparation from year to year. In the meantime, just like a veteran NCAA hoops squad that upsets Kentucky thanks to cagers unconcerned with their status in the NBA Draft, underdogs who focus on their tournament bids deal with no such conflicts.
Nobody can trash an event that’s comparable to March Madness. Besides, even if you’re supporting a team that’s supposed to focus on Premier League and Champions League hardware, you don’t want to get grease poured on your car.
— BT Sport (@btsport) December 24, 2018
Most Popular FA Cup Futures Odds in 2023
This cycle’s FA Cup futures odds are a strange variation on the theme. At least 2 of the top-rated brands in Europe are faring so poorly in the Premier League that the Football Association Cup and other competitions could be a way for talented strikers to take revenge in spring. Liverpool has almost no chance to knock Manchester City or Arsenal off the Premiership’s pinnacle in April, thanks to a dreadful fall and winter campaign in England. Reds of Liverpool, however, would have an outstanding chance to lord over the FA Cup draw in Round 5 and onward, should Salah’s squad manage to outlast EPL rival Brighton this weekend. Resultantly, Liverpool carries a solid (+750) line to repeat as champs.
Arsenal (+1000) are the Premier League’s points leaders and have no other competitions to worry about for the time being, having lost to Seagulls in early EFL Cup action with a reserve-laden lineup on the pitch. Gunners would undoubtedly enjoy a more steeply-priced betting line to win the FA Cup title than Reds, except that the club has an even tougher challenge in Round 4 after drawing a matchup against Sky Blues.
Man City’s (+250) FA Cup odds are a reflection of this Friday’s anticipated outcome. Given a prodigious Premier League table lead for Arsenal over the more-heralded Man City, most experts feel Sky Blues will go all-out to prove its superiority on Friday in hopes of teaching Gunners a lesson about how the clubs’ February league bout will go. Gunners are just a (+330) money-line bet vs Sky Blues’ (-155) odds to win and move on to Round 5.
Assorted teams have more favorable FA Cup odds thanks to easier draws. Manchester United (+450) has been building fierce momentum across all competitions and is now free from the complications of working with an aging Ronaldo at Old Trafford. Red Devils will appear against former English Premier League representative Reading in the 4th round on Saturday. Tottenham’s easy Round 4 draw vs Preston has helped Spurs gather (+750) title odds.
Clubs in the middle of England’s top tier domestic-league pack are getting decent odds to win their next matches, but scant gambling action to make it all the way to Wembley Stadium. Brighton & Hove Albion is drawing bright enough betting odds to beat Liverpool this weekend at just (+155) in the money-line market, contrasting with (+1600) odds on the underdog to win their first FA Cup in the history of the club.
Leicester City, Southampton, and West Ham are each “minus” money-line picks to defeat underdogs in Round 4 in a zoomed-out view of the bracket, yet Hammers at merely 18-to-1 are the “shortest” odds futures bet of the entire group.
2023 should see at least one minnow from a lower-tier UK league make a splash, but which one? There have already been some familiar names found swimming in Round 3 and Round 3 Replay outcomes. Boreham Wood, a National League representative, was the sentimental pick of 2021-22 after upsetting AFC Wimbledon and current Premier League club AFC Bournemouth in consecutive matches, then being eliminated nobly by Everton in an 0-2 loss. But fellow lower-tier upstart Accrington Stanley (no, that’s not an insurance broker) has eliminated The Wood. Watford Football Club was conquered by Reading, a recent Premier League entry that reached the FA Cup Final before losing to Manchester City in the Spring of 2019, in Round 3. Chelsea drew a fixture with Man City and failed to score in the typically low-key round, fighting the unlucky circumstances but still losing out for this cycle.
2023 FA Cup Match Odds and Predictions for Round 4
Manchester City vs Arsenal (Friday, Jan. 27)
Comprehending how Manchester City is FanDuel Sportsbook’s (-150) favorite to conquer Arsenal F.C. in Round 4 requires a look beyond the English Premier League table, a table that shows Man City lagging behind and Arsenal with a substantial lead.
It could be whispered that Mikel Arteta is a candidate to pare back for FA Cup and Europa League bouts in favor of outlasting Sky Blues in Arsenal’s race for a domestic league title. In addition, Arsenal is now entering a brief hurricane’s eye on the Premier League schedule following the brand’s toughest series of EPL opponents in a row. Gunners’ corker of a win over Manchester United on Sunday, keyed by Eddie Nketiah’s 2nd and 3rd goals of the season, will set the Emirates Stadium grounds alight for weeks to come while helping Gunners draw more money-line bets on generous 3-to-1 odds for Saturday.
Fatigue, however, is a byproduct of not only Sunday’s thrilling match, but a punishing stretch that has also included EPL dates against Spurs, Seagulls, and Magpies.
Arsenal has done exactly what it needed to do through the gauntlet, by refusing to drop points in any marquee match while winning a combative, controversial Round 3 bout against Oxford to advance in the FA Cup. Yet the hosting Man City is considered 2023’s foremost candidate to play the “Chelsea in 2020-21” role and prevail on every special occasion while failing to make noise at the top of the English Premier League leaderboard.
Draw money-lines of just (+280) for Sky Blues and Gunners, and a mere (+190) odds on City to defeat a goal spread of (-1) are offered at FanDuel Sportsbook. Those offers are indicative of the team’s blow-out victories in tournament play drying-up in 2022-23.
Gunners should not be undervalued in any competition given the club’s momentum, which is essentially tops in England at this point. Odds-makers seem incapable of imagining any losses from Sky Blues until the losses start to occur repeatedly and with predictable stats.
WagerBop’s Pick: Arsenal (+330)
Southampton vs Blackpool (Saturday, Jan. 28)
To notice Blackpool working its way toward the top of the English ranks again is a welcome sight. The team’s ownership and coaching positions were anything but ideal as of 2018 and 2019, however, Blackpool F.C. would become a rare underdog sports brand to emerge in better shape after the COVID-19 pandemic. The lower-tiered minnow’s chances were surely improved drawing the vulnerable Southampton, but bookmakers are still skeptical of the top 20 falling to elimination. From the POV of Saints, the prospect of a dull Premier League table status could once again inspire a Premiership squad to focus on winning a tournament later on. That is not a factor at present, though, making Saints’ (-250) money-line odds to win on Saturday among the more inscrutable bookmaker’s lines set on the FA Cup this year.
WagerBop’s Pick: Blackpool ATS (+1) (+175)
Manchester United vs Reading (Saturday, Jan. 28)
Despite Manchester United’s late let-down against Arsenal on Sunday, MUFC’s (-900) odds to beat Reading will probably stay in “parlay-only” territory at FanDuel Sportsbook. However, the club could become a shaky Round 4 pick against-the-spread if not on the money-line odds, since United’s fatigue potentially could surpass even Arsenal’s busy-itinerary difficulties. It is worth noting that MUFC is only facing an EFL Cup, or Carabao Cup round in midweek before hosting, not traveling when Royals of Reading arrive for Saturday’s kickoff. However, two factors make the bout with Nottingham Forest a potentially draining exercise. First, the match is a semi-final round bout against Nottingham, the latter a fresh Premiership side that made an English tournament run last cycle. Red Devils are expected to play a strong lineup. The match is also only a part of a “tie,” or the opening leg of a 2-date competition to advance to the EFL Cup Final. Even if Marcus Rashford scores a hat trick for MUFC in the opening half, the anticipated next tie will keep United from coasting to the finish.
FanDuel’s optimistic (-230) odds on Over (2.5) total goals will likely adjust as the reality of Red Devils’ probable fatigue and the bummer of Gunners’ huge win begin to set in on the gambling public. Reading, for a handy counterpoint, has lost 6 straight to Man United.
WagerBop’s Pick: Under (3.5)
Brighton & Hove Albion vs Liverpool (Sunday, Jan. 29)
Readers may wonder why Man City and other teams are expected to out-play their league point totals in the FA Cup’s next round, while Liverpool’s (+140) match odds remain congruent with the ailing Reds’ place in the Premier League standings. It has got a lot to do with Brighton & Hove Albion (+155) clobbering Liverpool 3-0 in a January league match that many Reds onlookers called the worst appearance of modern times for Reds.
Seagulls did not get an all-time great performance from goalkeeper Robert Sánchez, or score exclusively on counters and ragged plays, as was the case when Watford ended Liverpool’s long invincible streak at the turn of the decade. Instead, in frightening clarity for Liverpool supporters, Brighton simply outplayed the visitors in every conceivable way, and after taking a 2-0 lead at 52 minutes, the win for Seagulls seemed eerily fated.
Reds’ manager Jürgen Klopp may value Sunday’s return visit to Falmer Stadium as much as a Champions League playoff meeting. Pride is on the line for a lineup that was expected to contend for the 38-round title. But it’s hard to say that Seagulls did not surpass Reds’ performance in Round 3. Brighton pasted 2021-22 minnow Middlesbrough 5-1 behind a pair of goals from Alexis Mac Allister, while Liverpool drew with EPL relegation-candidate Wolverhampton and had to eke out a Replay to secure advancement to Round 4.
WagerBop’s Pick: Over (2.5)
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.