By Maria Taylor

The FA Trophy quarter-finals are just about two weeks away, and with the draw set, here are some early thoughts on the rest of the tournament.

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Notts County are the team to beat, but are they the team to bet on?

Soccer betting odds on the FA Trophy winner love Notts County to win the 2021 tournament. The Magpies are coming off a close victory in the fifth round proper – beating Havant and Waterlooville in penalty kicks. They look better in some early rounds – but two other clubs may be better bets.

Torquay United is the best club to pick to win the 2021 FA Trophy. They are looking better on the pitch than the other National League clubs left. They have a tough opponent in Woking – but they are the better club this year and should win. They are offering much better value than Notts County to win the tournament and are worth betting on.

If you are not a fan of Torquay United, the other club to look at is Darlington. The Quakers pulled the best draw in the quarter-finals – playing against Hornchurch, the lowest tier club of the eight left.  If they win and can avoid Notts County and Torquay United, they have a great chance at making the final. Then, anything is possible.

Clubs need to be vigilant over the next two weeks

Walkovers (forced forfeits, disqualifications, whatever you want to call it) have been at an all-time high during the 2020-21 FA Trophy – and at this point, clubs cannot afford for a player or players to test positive for Covid-19. Clubs need the money from the annual tournament more than ever, and losing this round by a walkover is costly.

A quarter-final loser receives £2000 while the winning club takes home £7500, plus at least another £5000 (if they were to lose in the semi-final round). With clubs on the brink of shuttering operations, these winnings could be the difference between playing in 2021 or insolvency.

As many of the players left in the tournament have other jobs, it can be difficult to avoid situations where you could come in contact with people. Hopefully, everyone is as vigilant as possible, and no more games are cancelled, and teams must forfeit.

Do not expect fans in the stands for the quarters

It does not seem like any announcements on restrictions will come before February 22, and it seems like on that date, they only plan to announce a roadmap/timetable for reopening. They will make it the third consecutive round without fans for any teams in the tournament. For now, we can hope for fans at Wembley for the final on Saturday, May 8, and potentially limited fans for the semi-final matches at the end of March.

A first-time winner is a possibility

Of the teams left, only Darlington (in 2011) and Woking (three wins, which is tied for the most all-time) had won the trophy before – while Torquay United made the final but lost in 2008. This means we have a 75% chance of getting a first-time winner.

The diversity of winners and the chance for any club from any eligible tier having a shot is one of the tournament’s best parts. It certainly would be a great story if any club won, but a first-time winner would be the perfect story to end a challenging year.

If you have no rooting or betting interest in the winner this year, then a final between rivals Woking and Aldershot Town would be nothing short of riveting.

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