Arsenal Women vs Lewes Women

Women’s FA Cup – All You Need to Know

The 2023/24 Women’s FA Cup (WFAC) was won by Manchester United with a stunning strike from England star Ella Toone setting them on the way. Women’s sport in general is getting more and more popular and football is at the vanguard of that in the UK. So many girls are playing the sport that England’s future looks bright, whilst the standard of domestic football in the Women’s Super League (WSL) is sure to get better and better.

Man United’s 4-0 win over Spurs on the 12th of May 2024, in front of over 76,000 fans at Wembley Stadium, may well have been the first time many watched a Women’s FA Cup final. If that game has piqued your interest in the tournament, read on, because we’ve got the full lowdown on this competition, along with some bit of trivia.

Not Quite the History of the Men’s Version

WFA Cup logoThe men’s FA Cup was first contested way back in 1871, more than 150 years ago. The first winners, and indeed many of the early champions, are clubs that no longer exist, or certainly not as professional football teams, for example, Wanderers (who won in 1871/72 and 1872/73), Royal Engineers, Old Etonians, and Blackburn Olympic.

The WFAC is rather newer, with Southampton beating Scottish outfit Stewarton Thistle in the first final in 1970/71. Saints appeared in the first nine finals, success the men’s team could only dream of, although the crowds would not be something that would excite the men. When Southampton beat QPR in the 1977/78 final, just 200 fans were in attendance at Wrexham Park Stadium, Slough. Rather a shame given it was an 8-2 goalfest!

That really shows just how far the Women’s FA Cup has come. The first time the final attracted a crowd of over 10,000 was as recently as 2001, when Arsenal beat Fulham 1-0. The general trend for attendances since then has been upwards, with 2007 seeing the first crowd of more than 20,000. That said, it has not been all positive, with fewer than 5,000 fans in attendance for yet another Arsenal win in 2013.

However, the 2014/15 season was something of a turning point for the competition and the women’s game, with the final that campaign held at Wembley Stadium for the first time. The national stadium has, quite rightly, been the WFAC final home since then. Crowds were initially in the 30,000s, then 40,000s, but the success of the English national team and the increased exposure of the WSL has meant almost a full house for each of the last two showpiece games.

Multiple Champions

Chelsea Women's champions
Chelsea women celebrate 2020 FA Cup win (Katie Chan /

There are still many huge differences between the men’s and women’s games but when it comes to the FA Cup, at least one thing is the same: the dominant force. Just like the men, Arsenal’s women are the most successful side. They have won the Women’s FA Cup 14 times, all since 1992/93, making a further three finals in that time too.

Southampton’s early supremacy puts them second on the all-time list with eight wins, though the last of those came back in 1980/81. Doncaster Belles, who were the game’s superpower between the Southampton era and that of the Gunners, boast six WFACs. They made the final 13 times between 1982/83 and 2001/02.

The other teams to have lifted this trophy at least three times are:

  • Chelsea – 5 wins
  • Croydon/Carlton Athletic – 3 wins
  • Man City – 3 wins

In addition, Leasowe Pacific, now Everton, have won twice, as have Fulham and Millwall Lionesses. Perhaps surprisingly, Man United’s 4-0 win over Spurs was their first triumph in an FA Cup final.

Format & Key Dates

Everton women celebrate 2010 FA Cup win
Everton women celebrate 2010 FA Cup win (Clavdia chauchat /

The format, structure and schedule for the Women’s FA Cup are all very similar to those for the men’s version. Fewer teams take part but in 2023/24 we saw 456 play in the competition, in many ways an astounding number and 18 more than the season before.

With fewer teams there are, of course, fewer qualifying rounds, with the competition typically starting in November, before the final in spring, usually mid-May. As with the men’s FA Cup, the top teams enter at a later date, with the 12 elite clubs of the WSL not joining the party until the 4th Round proper, with the 12 teams from the second tier coming in at the Third Round stage.

Prize money has increased dramatically in recent years, with clubs that lose in the first qualifying round getting £450, whilst the winners get £1,800. That money increases round by round, and with a win earning clubs both the cash for that round, plus the guarantee of at least the loser’s prize from the next, a decent run can make a huge difference for a smaller club.

Moneyfields, for example, are a small women’s team that only launched in 2017 and began in the Hampshire league system. They are now a fourth-tier outfit but their win in the Third Round earned them £35,000, plus the £13,000 they got when being eliminated at the next stage. For a club like them that is huge money and will really allow the club to grow.

Can I Watch It on TV?

BBC player featuring Women's FA Cup

Yes, you can! The BBC broadcast games from the Fourth Round onwards and whilst that was only one clash per round until the semis, it still helps the clubs and the game gain a lot of exposure. With viewing figures increasing and more and more interest in women’s football, that is sure to be a virtuous circle too, so hopefully more clashes will be covered in the future.

A Few Facts & Stats for the Road

  1. Southampton won the first three editions of this event, beating a different Scottish team in the final each time!
  2. Just 941 fans watched Leasowe Pacific (now Everton) beat Friends of Fulham at what must have been an echoey Old Trafford in 1989.
  3. In 2015, the winners of the Women’s FA Cup received less prize money than a team that lost in qualifying for the men’s First Round (proper).
  4. Winners include: St Helens, Howbury Grange, Fodens, and Lowestoft Ladies.
  5. Mismatches are commonplace, with the Fourth Round seeing seven of 16 games won by four goals or more in 2023/24.