As Jonathan De Guzman fired his penalty kick into the net to make the score 4-0 at historic Wembley Stadium, a merely academic 30 minutes remained in the Football League Cup against lowly Bradford City of the Football League 2, England’s 4th tier of soccer. Bradford’s somber end came in a 5-0 defeat in front of nearly 83,000.
Bradford’s conquest of the country took them through the likes of Premier League heavyweights Arsenal, by penalty shootout, and Aston Villa. Add that to a win against Championship side Wigan Athletic in the 4th round of the League Cup and it makes for an incredible Cinderella story of a near-amateur club so close to touching the English domestic cup and experiencing the glory and pageantry that comes with it. Their run finally was ended at the hands of Swansea, of the English Premier League, in the final (Bradford).
England’s Football League Cup creates an exciting story like Bradford’s almost every year at some level, only very few teams can reach all the way to the final and even fewer have the strength to win it. While England, and the rest of Europe, has a league system that is designed to find a true winner throughout a long season, more cardiac drama can be found in England’s domestic and league cups, the FA Cup and the Football League Cup.
What sets these competitions aside from a playoff league format or single-elimination tournament, like NCAA’s March Madness, is that these clubs are affected by the markets they operate in. A club like Arsenal is in a financial climate high above that of Bradford City, which makes it all the more spectacular when Bradford, who have no business being on the same pitch as Arsenal, can bring a team to fight through 120 minutes and beat them in the penalty shootout.
As mentioned in the Soccer Pyramids section, the League Cup explained here, and Bradford’s run in the 2012-13 season, is a competition where all 92 teams that make up England’s first 4 tiers compete. The winner advances to the UEFA Champions League, a European competition. The other cup, the FA Cup, involves more than 400 teams all across the entirety of England.
1. Ladyman, I. (2013, February 24). Bradford’s pride takes a pounding but fans salute fallen heroes as Swansea lift cup. Daily Mail. Retrieved from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2283918/Carling-Cup-final-2013-Bradfords-pride-takes-beating.html