Championship side London City Lionesses – who have won seven of their past eight games – will face WSL leaders Arsenal on Sunday (12:30 GMT) in a match UK viewers can watch live on the BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport website and app.
The Lionesses have already beaten WSL opponents this season – seeing off Brighton 1-0 in the League Cup – but can the team founded in 2019 when they separated from Millwall Lionesses cause an upset against Arsenal?
Captain Harley Bennett says London City have progressed “massively” in recent seasons, and sees Sunday’s game as a “good occasion to showcase ourselves”.
“I’ve thought a lot about playing Arsenal – it feels like we draw them every year in some competition – but I’m more excited than ever this time,” she said.
“This year we have become even stronger, fitter and have a style we want to play in. I think it will be a really good game and I’m really excited to lead the team and hopefully have a cup upset.”
Bennett recently became the first player to reach 50 appearances for the club – something that looked unlikely when she took four years out of football from 2015.
“I had hit a point in my career where I wasn’t enjoying it as much,” she said. “I struggled with the different levels of people’s commitment.
“I’m super happy to be back in women’s football now. It’s such a privilege to be a part of it all.”
Cup-sets on the cards?
Everton, who sit 10th in the WSL, will take on third-tier opposition in the form of Huddersfield Town.
But the underdogs may fancy their chances, having only dropped points in one game out of nine – a run that includes eight consecutive wins.
Manager Glen Preston wants his side to use the game as “a platform to help grow the club and show what we stand for”.
He added: “We know how much of a challenge it will be and how a big a gulf there is between the two clubs. It’s the FA Cup, and anything can happen, but my biggest hopes are that we can represent the club well, narrow the gap between ourselves and the WSL side, and hopefully gain a few new fans.”
Elsewhere, former Nottingham Forest player Gareth Taylor will return to the City Ground as his Manchester City side – who have won four of their past five games – take on third-tier Forest.
Bridgwater United, who emerged in 2021 after the collapse of former WSL side Yeovil, will take on Manchester United as they seek a springboard for their campaign for Championship football while Exeter – the lowest-ranked of the four fourth-tier sides left in the competition – travel to West Brom.
‘Significant increase’ to prize fund but protests continue
The women’s teams are fighting for less than 2% of the prize fund awarded to men’s sides, with the total for winning the trophy set at £25,000 in contrast to the men’s £1.8m.
In response to criticism from fans, MPs and several WSL managers, the FA announced on Friday that they will be making a “significant increase” to the prize money for the women’s FA Cup from the next season.
A protest – organised by campaign group the Women’s Football Fan Collective – had been set to take place at more than half of this weekend’s games.
The group took to twitter to confirm that they will still be taking part in the protest, where supporters plan to chant ‘No ifs, no buts, we want an equal FA Cup’ on the 51st and 71st minutes – the women’s FA Cup having started 51 years ago in 1971.
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes called the disparity between the prize money “unbelievable”.
“I’m not talking about Chelsea, I’m not talking about the top clubs, I’m talking about the trickle-down effect,” she said.
“We have to keep pushing because the fact that we get [less than] 5% of that total fund is completely unacceptable, on a really serious level.
“This is a significant news story that we have to keep highlighting, because we must protect our smaller clubs. We’ve got to grow the women’s game.”
Brighton boss Hope Powell echoed Hayes’ feelings, saying the figures “don’t quite match up to where the game is at the moment”.
She added: “With where the women’s game is now, the fanbase, the final at Wembley and the numbers commanded – which was over 40,000 – [it shows] there is an appetite for it.
“I think the prize money should align itself somewhat to that.”