The FA WSL Continental Cup is back with Manchester City the holders looking to win another trophy to validate their business & football model.
Some of format problems from last season have been changed while other remains and controversy will still strike as usual. Note the final will be played late in the season on Sunday the 1st of November.
Here are the main points from the FA WSL Cup rules :
“The League Cup will be competed for by all Clubs competing in the FA WSL. Any Club withdrawing from the Competition shall be fined a sum not exceeding £500. Only players registered for a Club shall be eligible to play for that Club in any one Season. A player shall not play for more than one Club in the League Cup Competition during any one Season. A Club playing an ineligible player shall be removed from the Competition, and be subject to a fine as decided by the Management Committee.
The first round of the Competition may be played in a group format. Subsequent rounds will be played on a ‘knock-out’ basis. If a Group Stage takes place it should consist of three groups of six teams selected on a regional basis to play each other once. The teams finishing winners and runners-up of the Group Stage plus two best placed
runner-up (based on and in the order of, the highest number of points, superior goal difference, highest number of goals scored, the results between the two Clubs concerned, drawing of lots) will progress to the Quarter Finals. note the typo here from the FA, best third place teams go through. A draw will take place to determine the compilation of the Quarter Final and Semi Final ties. Semi Final ties may take place on a neutral venue.” Hopefully no ineligible player will take part in the competition unlike last year.
The biggest change is there is now an extra round of games with the quarter-final stage rather than going straight to the semi-final stage like last year. If you remember last season was one group with only FA WSL 1 side compared to the other two groups with three FA WSL 1 side. And funily enough the best runner-up came from that group qualifying alongside the other three group winners.
This also means there will be less dead rubbers towards the end of the competition and maybe less heavy scoreline although the gap between WSL 1 and WSL 2 sides seem to grow overall. Obviously Sunderland this season is showing that the gap between the top of WSL 2 and WSL 1 is non existent, but the medium range and bottom half of WSL 2 teams are nowhere near the WSL 1 level as expected really. The groups are the same as last year. Group 1 with 2 WSL 1 and 4 WSL 2 sides, Group 2 with 3 WSL 1 and 3 WSL 2 sides and Groop C with 3 WSL 1 and 3 WSL 2 sides.
Upsets might happen though, we saw two wins for WSL 2 teams against WSL 1 teams in the Conti Cup last season and two as well in the FA Cup this season. And the first controversy comes from Everton Ladies schedule as they applied to postpone all their games in July. The FA decided that their League games would be postponed but not the Continental Cup games !!!! So their weakened squad is deemed good enough to compete again WSL 1 side Liverpool and Sunderland by the FA but not against WSL 2 sides. It does not sound the most logical thing unless the FA do not really care about the competition.
Last point, I would expect the England World Cup players to be rested in the earlier round of the competition considering the games come thick and fast and those girls have had barely a week off and need to be fresh and sharp for the League games.