Groundhopper Soccer Guides | What is the Copa del Rey? (2023)

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The Copa del Rey, or Copa del Rey, is the national cup competition of Spanish football, its equivalent in English.four cups, oItalian CupheGerman DFB Cup. But there are some differences that make it interesting, so let's take a deeper look at this annual competition, which exists for both men and women.

If you want a little introduction to how world football is organized, both between and within countries, check out our video on the subject:

History of the Copa del Rey

The men's Copa del Rey started in 1903, or 1902, if you ask Athletic Bilbao. This is because this club, or at least one of its early versions, won the Coronation Cup, a tournament held in 1902 to commemorate the coronation of a king. Everyone outside of Athletic sees him as a precursor to the Copa del Rey and does not count on him, but the trophy remains in his box and in his honor to this day.

Until 1929, when the Spanish League was founded, the Cup was effectively Spain's national league, with clubs qualifying through their regional leagues. Then it went by different names, from the primitive Majesty Cup of King Alfonso XIII to the President of the Republic Cup, passing through the Generalissimo Cup during the Franco dictatorship. He died in 1975 and since then it has only been Copa del Rey.

At the time of writing these lines, Barcelona is the team that has won the most cups with 31, followed not by Real Madrid as one might suppose, but by Athletic Bilbao, with 23 or 24; again, depending on who you ask, Real Madrid is third with 20, and The two biggest reasons behind Bilbao are time and form. That is to say, Athletic won 21 of its 23 (official) cups before 1960, and since then Real Madrid has won 11, but only three in the last 30 years, which probably has more to do with the format, than We will talk later. .

Also, maybe it's better that he doesn't win it, because when he won the cup in 2014, Real Madrid destroyed him. We'll get to that.

Real Betis, in green, won the 2021-22 Copa del Rey.

The shape of the Copa del Rey

Before 2019, only clubs from the first two league levels were allowed to participate, as well as the regional champions from the third league. However, since then, it has been open to 125 teams each year, including the sixth division regional champions. That's a difference compared to the FA Cup, which is open to over 700 clubs. (Related:What is the FA Cup?)

The tournament usually starts in early October with a qualifying round in which all the teams in the sixth league play regional matches.

All but four clubs participate in the first round: the top two of last season's championship standings and the two finalists of last season's Cup. 110 clubs participate, playing 55 matches, normally in the first half of November.

But there's another big difference from the FA Cup: in all those rounds, the matches and locations aren't completely random. La Liga teams are always paired with teams from lower leagues and always play away from home. So the first round of the Copa del Rey gives way to some exciting matches, such as the 2021-22 Copa, which sees La Liga side Villarreal play away against sixth division Victoria CF, in a match that had to move because the Victoria Stadium was not up to standard.

The next three rounds, until the quarter-finals at the end of January, follow the same format, with La Liga teams always playing away from home against the lowest-ranked teams remaining in the competition. Perhaps this, perhaps combined with the fact that the club does not make the Cup a high priority, is the reason why Real Madrid have only lifted two trophies in the last 10 years.

From there, the standard random draws are made for the quarter-finals and semi-finals, with the latter being played over two home games for each club in February and March.

The final, which is usually played in late April or early May, is held at a neutral venue and has changed locations over the years, unlike England, Germany and Italy, where it is always held at the same location. campus. But from 2019 to 2023 he is in Seville, which was good for Real Betis in the 2022 final, since he is from Seville and had to lift the Cup (see above this post) in his city.

Men's Copa del Rey schedule 2022-23

Real Madrid beat Osasuna 2-1 in the 2022-23 Copa del Rey final. May 6 at the La Cartuja Stadium in Seville, Spain.

How to watch the Copa del Rey

You can watch the Copa del Rey in the United StatesESPN+.

Groundhopper Soccer Guides | What is the Copa del Rey? (2)

Watch soccer on ESPN+ in the United States.Groundhopper Soccer Guides | What is the Copa del Rey? (3)

Is there a female Copa del Rey?

Yes and no. In Spain there is a cup competition for women's clubs, but it is called Copa del Reina or Copa de la Reina. It's been around since 1983, and from 2004 to 2017 it was only for the top eight teams in the women's league in the postseason tournament. As of the 2021-22 season, it is for 52 clubs: 16 from the first division, 32 from the second division and four promoted teams.

Espanyol and Levante were the top clubs in the Copa del Reina until 2013, when Barcelona's rise made it almost a single club. Since 2013, Barcelona have appeared in all but three of the finals and have won 7 of the 8 they have participated in, including 5 of the last 7, usually by two or more goals. They also won the 2021 UEFA Women's Champions League. However, for the 2022-23 Copa del Reina, Barcelona were knocked out in the round of 16 and Atlético Madrid won their second Copa del Reina over Real Madrid in time. off.

What do the winners of the Copa del Rey qualify for?

The winners of the Copa del Rey qualify for the Europa League next season (Related:What is the Europa League?), as well as the Superopa de España, a four-team competition involving the winners and runners-up of La Liga and the Copa del Rey. This season's Super Cup is held in Saudi Arabia because that country paid the Spanish association to organize it.

Highlights of the Copa del Rey

1980: Real Madrid loses... Real Madrid? Yes, their reserve team made it to the final, knocking out several La Liga teams along the way. The adults beat the kids in the final 6-1, but were invited to the celebration anyway. Then, after the senior side had won the league that year, the boys booked a place in the European Cup Winners' Cup and actually beat West Ham at home in the first leg before being beaten in the second.

2012: Mirantes surprised Villarreal. The third division side drew 2-2 at home in the first leg, but everyone assumed they would play away in the second leg, including, apparently, the vast majority of Villarreal fans who didn't bother to show up. Well not so much.

2012: Mirantes 4-2 Villarreal. Yes, they did it again, this time at home.

2009: Alcorcón 4-0 Real Madrid. A third division team, with a salary less than 1% of that of the champions of the last league, playing in its 3,000 sold-out seats, has just gone out and beat Los Blancos.

You may have recognized this wonderful goal by Gareth Bale, but you didn't know that it was in the Cup final, won by Real Madrid in 2014.

And finally, as promised: in 2011, Real Madrid had just beaten Barcelona in the final, with a header from Cristiano Ronaldo in extra time, and they were having a victory parade when this happened:

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