The fifth round of the FA Cup is set for this weekend, and it’s a stage usually reserved for teams near the top of the English pyramid.
That’s not always true, however.
In this year’s edition, Lincoln City and Sutton United — members of the National League, the fifth tier of said pyramid — have crashed the party. Ironically, the two were scheduled to meet in league play this weekend, but that fixture will have to wait.
Should one of them advance, it will be the first time a non-league side has reached the quarterfinals since QPR in 1914. So, odds are that Burnley will send Lincoln City packing on Saturday and Arsenal will do the same to Sutton United on Monday afternoon.
For this weekend, however, both will be squarely in the spotlight. Here’s what you need to know about them:
Home ground: Sincil Bank
Manager: Danny Cowley
Player to watch: Striker Matt Rhead, who used be to a factory worker playing non-league soccer, leads the Imps with 13 goals this season. At 6-4, he’s quite a target on set pieces.
Best moment in club history: The Imps have reached this point in the FA Cup four times, but hold the dubious distinction of being the club in England that has spent the most seasons in the Football League (104) without ever having reached the top flight.
Hyperbole alert: Would a win at Burnley on Saturday (7:25 p.m. ET, FS1) be the biggest in club history? It would be tough to argue otherwise. To date, the best thing in the club trophy case is a League Two championship from 1976.
From the manager: ”If we’re realistic, we’d probably only beat them once in a hundred times but we’ve to go into the game believing this is that one game, that one opportunity, in a hundred because without belief we have nothing.
”We’re going to make sure we give the very best version of ourselves and try to match the commitment of our supporters who have been queuing up all night to get tickets.
”We’re going to be brave, we’re going to fight and give it one hell of a go. If we do all of those things, we might give ourselves that chance.” — Danny Cowley
Nickname: The U’s
Home ground: Gander Green Lane
Manager: Paul Doswell
Player to watch: He’s not likely to play, but Wayne Shaw, the 46-year-old, 280-pound goalkeeper, goalkeeping coach, 3G pitch sweeper (the Gander Green Lane pitch is artificial) and former ice cream man is an amazing story.
Best moment in club history: They won the National League South (sixth tier) title last year, and have had a couple of good FA Cup runs — but never one this far.
Hyperbole alert: Would a win at home against Arsenal on Monday (3 p.m. ET, FS1) be the biggest in club history? 100 percent yes. Don’t tell the fans, but the best result for the club would be a draw, and a bank vault filling replay at the Emirates.
From the manager: “There’s two ways of looking at it. You either get the likes of Ozil and Sanchez and Giroud — and you can just keep naming them — in which case we would lose the game comfortably but the lads would get the experience of having played a Premier League giant.
“If you see Ozil and Sanchez on the team sheet our chance doesn’t come beyond nought. Or you go the other way and you play a team of under-23s that are still internationals mixed in with one or two of their squad players, and that gives us that one percent chance that we’d be after.” — Paul Doswell