The talking points: FFA Cup Round of 32 draw

The FFA Cup 2021 Round of 32 draw took place on Thursday night, with eight A-League clubs receiving the stern test of facing NPL teams based around the country. 

The new-look cup format saw the last 32 teams split into four zones before open competition returns in the Round of 16. It’s a first taste of FFA Cup football for A-League newcomers Macarthur FC, whilst two of the four A-League clubs are still vying to sneak into final stages of the knockout tournament.

It’s an exciting new era for the nations ultimate cup competition, and here are all the key talking points ahead of a highly-anticipated Round of 32!

The format

A shake-up to the FFA Cup format opened the door for new possibilities in 2021, with all 12 A-League sides competing for just 10 spots in the Round of 32.

The top eight finishers on the A-League table in the 2020/21 campaign sealed their spot in the FFA Cup, with the bottom four sides – Perth Glory, Western United, Newcastle Jets and Melbourne Victory – left to fight for the remaining two spots on offer.

Perth finished ninth on the table, setting up a clash with wooden spooners Melbourne Victory, with 11th-place finishers Newcastle facing Western United (10th) in the second of two playoff fixtures.

The two winners will then take their place in the Round of 32. Either Glory or Victory will face NPL SA side Adelaide City FC, whilst the winner of Newcastle v United will take on fellow A-League club Wellington Phoenix.

In another variation for the 2021 competition, the FFA Cup Round of 32 draw was split into four geographical zones: north, south, east and west. Here are the 16 fixtures split into their respective zones:

Zone 1 – East

  • Sydney Olympic FC (NPL NSW) v Sydney FC (A-League)
  • Broadmeadow Magic FC (NPL Northern NSW) v Western Sydney Wanderers FC (A-League)
  • Tigers FC (NPL Capital Football) v APIA Leichhardt FC (NPL NSW)
  • Blacktown City FC (NPL NSW) v Central Coast Mariners (A-League)
  • Mt Druitt Town Rangers FC (NPL NSW) v Wollongong Wolves FC (NPL NSW)
  • Newcastle Olympic FC (NPL Northern NSW) v Macarthur FC (A-League)

Zone 2 – North

  • Lions FC (NPL QLD) v Casuarina FC (NorZone Premier League)
  • Edge Hill United (FQN Northern Mens Premier League)  vs Gold Coast Knights (NPL QLD)
  • Peninsula Power (NPL QLD) v Brisbane Roar FC (A-League)

Zone 3 – South

  • Wellington Phoenix (A-League) v Western United OR Newcastle Jets (A-League)
  • Avondale FC (NPL VIC) v Devonport City Strikers (NPL Tasmania)
  • Hume City FC (NPL VIC) v Port Melbourne Sharks FC (NPL VIC)
  • South Melbourne FC (NPL VIC) v Melbourne City FC (A-League)

Zone 4 – West

  • ECU Joondalup SC (NPL WA) vs Adelaide Olympic FC (NPL SA)
  • Adelaide City FC (NPL SA) vs Perth Glory OR Melbourne Victory (A-League)
  • Floreat Athena (NPL WA) v Adelaide United (A-League)

At the conclusion of the Round of 32, the draw will return to an open format, meaning any of the remaining 16 clubs can be drawn against each other. This is how the draw format will remain for the rest of the competition.

NPL takes on the A-League

The FFA Cup 2021 Round of 32 draw saw eight of the potential 10 A-League clubs drawn against NPL opposition. 

In Zone 1, Former NSL side Sydney FC drew NPL NSW outfit Sydney Olympic FC – the first meeting between the two sides in FFA Cup history. But fellow NPL NSW side Blacktown City have prior history with Round of 32 opponents Central Coast Mariners after knocking the A-League club out with a 3-2 triumph at the same stage of the 2017 FFA Cup.

Broadmeadow Magic FC, currently first on the NPL Northern NSW table, will host Western Sydney Wanderers while Macarthur FC enter the FFA Cup for the first time in 2021, travelling to face NPL Northern NSW outfit Newcastle Olympic FC.

Zone 2 will see Brisbane Roar go up against NPL QLD side Peninsula Power. With 14 wins from 14 games in the current NPL QLD campaign, Peninsula Power are 13 points clear on the top of the table and full of confidence ahead of their clash with the A-League side.

In Zone 3, reigning A-League Premiers and Champions Melbourne City will test their mettle against former NSL Champions South Melbourne FC in one of the ties of the Round of 32, whilst Adelaide United travel out west to face NPL WA side Floreat Athena in Zone 4, with the winner of Perth Glory v Melbourne Victory to go up against NPL SA team Adelaide City FC away from home.

Another first for the Bulls

After the club’s inaugural A-League season, which included a push to the Semi Finals in the 2020/21 campaign, Macarthur FC will feature in its maiden FFA Cup campaign when the Round of 32 kicks off in 2021. 

Drawn against Newcastle Olympic FC, Macarthur will look to avoid becoming a victim of a “cupset” defeat the FFA Cup is known all too well for serving up to A-League sides in the club’s first ever tournament fixture.

It’s an exciting time for Bulls fans as the club announced the signings of Ulises Dávila and Daniel De Silva this week. After former captain Mark Milligan and Basque pair Markel Susaeta and Beñat Etxebarria retired at the end of the 2020/21 A-League season, Bulls boss Ante Milicic will take a new-look Macarthur side into the new campaign.

The Round of 32 of the 2021 FFA Cup could give Bulls fans a first glimpse at their star new recruits against a Newcastle Olympic side currently placed fifth on the NPL Northern NSW table.

Davila Wellington