Dan Nichols

Although last night's Round of 32 fixtures did not feature any A-League teams, the occasion and quality of the games, combined to create a hugely successful night.

Heading into the games, I couldn't name a single player (although I did recognise some ex A-League names during the coverage), nor even tell you which local competition some of the sides compete in.

The quality of the coverage has really added to the excitement and importance of the competition, which has picked up where the successful inaugural competition left off last season.

The picturesque CBUS Stadium on the Gold Coast played host to the opening televised game of the competition as the Palm Beach Sharks hosted South Melbourne, while the remaining fixtures, were streamed live on the FFA Cup website.

Traditional state league powerhouse South Melbourne and FFA Cup darlings Palm Beach played out an incredible penalty shootout that finished with an 8-7 victory to the Gold Coast based club after the game finished 1-1 at the end of 120 minutes.

The amount of positive feedback on social media, especially considering the fixtures ran against the opening session of the third Ashes Test, was absolutely incredible.

As with last season's competition, the early rounds of the tournament have been met with great excitement and enjoyment by fans and players alike.

Adding to the ‘romance' of the cup was the fact Fox Sports was able to throw to the other fixtures upon a goal being scored.

The fact that two state league teams can play on a top class pitch, refereed by A-League level officials, and broadcast by the best sporting telecasters in the country, should be commended.

Fans of the sides playing in the other fixtures, including the seven goal thriller that saw Hume City defeat Brisbane Strikers 4-3, were able to watch their sides streamed on the live online, with full commentary from the Fox Sports team.

The quality of the games almost matched the level of telecast. The fact that each side playing last night had to win four games to advance to this stage shows that each has earned their opportunity.

The pick of the games was the aforementioned Hume City/Brisbane Strikers game, which saw a winner scored via an own goal in the final minute of extra time.

Anyone who doubted the importance of the competition only needed to witness the scenes in Melbourne (Hume) after the full time whistle and the heartbreak within the South Melbourne squad following their loss on penalties.

For the record Hume City FC, Palm Beach, Metrostars SC and Heidelburh United FC advance to the round of 16.

Enter the A-League heavyweights

Next Tuesday, the A-League clubs will feature, with both the Melbourne clubs to beginning their FFA Cup campaigns.

Last season's winners Adelaide United will enter the competition a night later as they travel to play Darwin Olympic SC in the top end.

The following week will feature three all A-League clashes, meaning that at LEAST three A-League sides will exit the competition in the round of 32.

The real ‘romance' (there's that word again) of the cup will come as the aforementioned Melbourne sides play state league competition teams.

Last year saw the Western Sydney Wanderers, who weeks later captured the Asian Champions League trophy, exit in the round of 32.

The fact that the majority of state leagues are deep into their seasons, whilst the A-League clubs do not kick off until October, it's not beyond the realms of possibility we might just see another upset in this brilliant competition.

Footballing feast limits off-season pain

Fans of the round-ball game, and specifically the A-League, have enjoyed an absolute feast of football over the past few months and have hardly noticed it is the code's off-season.

Real Madrid, Manchester City and AS Roma played out a trio of matches in front of huge crowds at the MCG, including an absolute monster crowd for the City vs Madrid clash.

The International Champions Cup closely followed well supported friendlies between A-League clubs and international powerhouses.

In fact, within weeks of the A-League Grand Final, Sydney FC were hosting the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and English Premier-League champions Chelsea.

Despite the A-League season not kicking off until October, football fans have the early rounds of theFFA Cup to look forward to, as well as the regular pre-season friendlies and the off-season football is only set to increase with M elbourne locking in a deal to keep the International Champions Cup for the next three years.

What off-season?