All countries have one cup, except England and France. Why? Do they really need them?
England has the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup (the former English Cup). France has Coupe de la Ligue and Coupe de France. What’s the point of having two cups? Well, first and foremost, it gives more chances to lower level teams to reach European competitions. Although that’s rare, it still does happen from time to time. Secondly, it’s additional income for those types of clubs. Thirdly, it gives players from such teams exposure and an opportunity to earn a heftier paycheck somewhere else. However, most of the time these competitions are won by clubs that have already qualified for Europe. Let me give you some examples.
In the last 20 years, the FA Cup has been won by only two teams that are not part of the top 5 (Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United). They were Wigan in the 2012/13 season and Portsmouth in the 2007/08 season.
The story is similar with the English Cup (known through the years as Carling Cup, Capital One Cup, EFL Cup and now Carabao Cup). Since 2005, Birmingham, Swansea and Tottenham have been the only teams other than the top 5 that have won it.
The last time France’s Coupe de la Ligue was won by a team outside the top 7 was 2006, when Nancy lifted the trophy. Only two teams other than PSG and Marseille have won it since – Bordeaux twice and St. Etienne. Both of those clubs qualified for Europe through the league in the seasons they won the cup.
There has been more variety in Coupe de France, although the last three have all been won by PSG. Since 2008, Guingamp (twice) has been the only team that has lifted the trophy without securing European qualification through the league.
The additional cups in these two countries carry additional burden for the clubs involved. In modern-day football, the schedule is already strenuous enough. Two cups simply intensify the teams’ workload. Since the bigger clubs win them anyway, it results in more income for them, increasing the discrepancy in quality. Furthermore, richer clubs are the only ones who can cope with two cups player-wise. All other teams have to choose which one to focus their energy towards, since they don’t have the necessary amount of available footballers and even staff to deal with such an intense schedule.
The existence of two cups reduces the priority of the league as well. Teams in the Premier League and Ligue 1 play 38 games per season. The results there must have more meaning than 5 or 6 cup wins. I realize that a lot of money is involved here. Cup finals fill stadiums and bring significant income. It doesn’t change the fact they’re not necessary. Perhaps it would make sense to have two cups, if the teams that finished the previous season in the top 7 are excluded, thus allowing the rest to have bigger odds at achieving something that would hardly be possible otherwise. The best clubs don’t send their best teams on the pitch in cups anyway, at least not until they reach the later stages.