In this short football language post we explain the expression ‘to be in the hat‘ which is often used when describing knockout football. Check out our football glossary and football cliches pages for hundreds more explanations of the language of soccer. If you have questions or comments about this or any other phrase then email us at:

Football Language Podcast: In the hat

DF: Hello everyone, this is Damian from the Learning English Through Football team. I hope we are all doing well and staying safe wherever we are in the world. Now, today’s football language podcast will look at a phrase which is connected to knockout football and in particular to the draw for each round. And the phrase is, ‘To be in the hat’. Don’t forget that there is a transcript for this report which can be accessed from our site at

Stinger: You are listening to (in Thai).

DF: Now, recently the third round of the FA Cup took place in England and we can hear and read quite a lot of words and phrases associated with knockout tournaments including the phrase, ‘to be in the hat‘. If a team qualifies for the next round of a knockout competition we can say that they are in the hat which means that they are still in the competition and are ready to be drawn against another side. A hat was often used to decide which teams would face each other in each phase or round of a competition. Drawing or pulling names or numbers out of the hat suggests a randomness and fairness to the process and as there are no seeds this means that any team could face any other team.

If a team is in the hat it means that they are in the draw for the next round; that they are still involved in the cup competition which can be seen from the following example: ‘Being in hat for next round is all that matters to Benitez’ (Irish Independent, March 2007). This means that the manager (Benitez) really wants to qualify for the next round of the competition – he really wants his side to be ‘in the hat‘. Now, Non-league side Chorley are delighted to be in the hat for the fourth round of this year’s FA Cup and when their name came out of the hat during the draw they were paired (or drawn) with Premier League side Wolves. I wonder wiill they still be in the hat for future rounds?

Stinger: You are listening to (in French).

DF: Thanks everyone for listening – we hope you enjoyed our look at the phrase ‘to be in the hat‘. Listen out for examples of this phrase when you are watching cup football and maybe you can let us know how this phrase is said in another language. Drop us a line at or, of course, you can leave a comment in the section below the post here at languagecaster.

Don’t forget there is also a transcript for this report which can be accessed for free at languagecaster. OK, myself and Damon, who of course is in Tokyo, will be back soon with some more football language. Enjoy all the football this week – see you soon. Bye bye.

Check out our glossary of footballing phrases here. If you have any suggestions, contact us at
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Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football

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