Why it’s huge that a new club will win the Women’s FA Cup this season


At Wembley Stadium on Sunday afternoon, Manchester United or Tottenham Hotspur will lift the Women’s FA Cup for the first time. Whoever wins, one team will make history for themselves.

But this final also means a lot for the competitive status of the wider women’s game in England.

The FA Cup trophy has been exclusively the domain of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City for more than a decade. The last club outside the WSL’s established ‘big three’ to get their hands on it was Birmingham in 2012, beating a pre-Emma Hayes Chelsea on penalties.

Prior to the that Arsenal appeared in ten finals and won nine of them between 2006 and 2016. Chelsea have won each of the last three. If there is one thing that makes elite spot less engaging, it is repetitiveness. At long last, 2024 is the first FA Cup final without Arsenal, Chelsea or City since Charlton Athletic narrowly beat Everton in front of just 8,568 people at Upton Park in 2005.

In reaching the FA Cup final, Manchester United did something they never had before by winning against Chelsea in the last four. Even in an otherwise challenging season for Marc Skinner’s team, they finally got over the line against the only domestic side they had never previously beaten.

Tottenham themselves pulled off a shock in the quarter-finals by inflicting defeat on a Manchester City side who were then in the midst of a 14-game winning streak in the WSL.

That trend of extra competitiveness has been seen in the league too. The eventual final winning points tally this season would only have been good enough to finish third in 2022/23. Liverpool have beaten Manchester United (twice), Arsenal and Chelsea, while Tottenham also claimed a landmark first ever win over north London rivals Arsenal earlier in the campaign.

Chelsea won a third straight FA Cup last season

Chelsea won a third straight FA Cup last season / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

According to 2010 FA Cup winner, former Lioness and BBC pundit Rachel Brown-Finnis, that level of competitiveness is what sets women’s football in England apart from neighbours in Europe.

“You had Aitana Bonmati talking about Liga F and how dominant Barcelona are – that’s great for them as individuals but [not] for the league. That’s why she admires the Women’s Super League so much and women’s football here in England,” Brown-Finnis tells 90min.

Those directly involved in Sunday’s final, while absolutely out to win it, have expressed similar sentiment about the importance of some variety in the competition.

“It’s massively exciting,” United midfielder Hayley Ladd said. “It gives people different styles to watch and shows that there is more to women’s football than a top three and the teams they’re used to seeing. It’s really nice for us to showcase our skillsets and abilities, and similarly for Spurs as well.”

Robert Vilahamn, who has overseen Tottenham’s resurgence in his first season in charge, explained it can only be a positive that an increasing number of teams are capable of winning trophies.

“If you look at the final, a new winner, Tottenham or Manchester United, I think it’s a good thing for this country to get more teams in the league competing for trophies, because you want to have a competitive league,” the Swede offered in pre-matching briefings.

The same goes for United counterpart Marc Skinner, whose side have been reeled back in by the ‘rest’ of the WSL, so to speak, after taking the title race to the final day less than a year ago.

“This season, in general – forget the FA Cup for a second, the competitiveness of the league has been far more,” Skinner said. “What it reminds you is that you can’t stand still and must keep progressing, keep evolving. If you don’t, you can get left behind. The investment in the league and the excitement of what’s to come, I only think it’s going to get better.”

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