The Copa del Rey is the main cup competition in Spanish soccer. It has a rich history dating all the way back to 1903, making it the oldest soccer tournament in the country played at a national level.
La Liga, by contrast, was only founded in 1929, and the Copa del Rey was in effect the national soccer championship before the league began. The name translates as ‘King’s Cup’ and was created to celebrate the coronation of King Alfonso XIII.
The 2022/23 edition of the Copa del Rey begins on October 19 and will conclude with the final on May 6. A total of 115 teams will enter the competition, but only of those will be crowned the Copa del Rey winner 2022/23.
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The Copa del Rey odds are usually similar to those for the La Liga title, so Real Madrid are the favorites for both. The reigning Spanish and European champions are the team to beat in all domestic competitions in the 2022/23 season.
Barcelona have strengthened their squad in the summer transfer market and could challenge for major trophies in Xavi Hernandez’s first full season at the helm. Atletico Madrid might view the Copa del Rey as their best chance to win silverware this campaign, so we can expect Diego Simeone to take this competition seriously.
It is interesting to note that three of the last four winners of the Copa del Rey have not been Real Madrid, Barcelona or Atletico Madrid. With that in mind, do not dismiss the credentials of clubs like Sevilla, Valencia, Real Betis and Villarreal.
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The Copa del Rey has not yet begun this season. The holders are Real Betis, who lifted the trophy in the 2021/22 campaign for only the third time in the club’s history.
Real Betis beat Alicante, Talavera, Real Valladolid, Sevilla, Real Sociedad and Rayo Vallecano to reach the final, where they overcame Valencia on penalties following a 0-0 draw after extra time.
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The Copa del Rey is third on the list of priorities for major Spanish sides, behind La Liga and the Champions League (or other European competitions like the Europa League or the Europa Conference League). It is the equivalent of the FA Cup in England and the DFB-Pokal in Germany.It might not be the number one target for the biggest clubs in Spain, but the Copa del Rey’s history and prestige mean it is still a prize worth fighting for. Real Betis were certainly delighted to lift the trophy in 2022.
The Copa del Rey final is a one-legged affair held at a neutral venue. The semi-finals are held over two legs, with each side hosting one game. The rest of the tournament is a series of one-off games.
All 20 La Liga teams and 21 from the Segunda Division take part in the Copa del Rey. They are joined by numerous sides from the Segunda Division B and the Tercera Division, plus the four semi-finalists from the previous year’s Copa Federacion de Espana, and several teams from Spain’s regional leagues. A total of 115 sides will be involved in this year’s tournament.
The Copa del Rey begins with a preliminary round, contested by the lowest-ranked sides in the tournament. The vast majority of teams enter in the first round, with the exception of those that qualified for the Supercopa de Espana.Half of the sides in each round are eliminated until just two are left standing. That pair fights for the Copa del Rey trophy in the final.
The winners of the Copa del Rey receive a trophy, a set of medals and around €1 million ($1.2 million) in prize money. The victorious team also qualifies for the following season’s Europa League, provided they do not go on to qualify via their final position in La Liga.If that is the case, the Europa League spot is handed to the highest-placed team in the league that has not otherwise qualified for continental soccer. Both the winners and the runners-up of the Copa del Rey also advance to the next season’s Spanish Supercopa.
Soccer fans based in the United States can watch the Copa del Rey on ESPN. Kick-off times (Eastern) are usually in the afternoons of selected midweeks throughout the season.
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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