Liverpool kickoff their League Cup campaign today as lowly Carlisle United make their way to Anfield. The Reds literally couldn't have managed a better draw; Carlisle United are the side the farthest down the table of any remaining club. That they finished 20th out of 24 in League 2 last year, thus barely maintaining their position in the Football League, says a lot about the current predicament of Carlisle.
In recent years, the third round has produced a mixed bag for Liverpool. Two years ago saw the Reds lose 1-0 away to Manchester United, and last year the Reds survived a marathon penalty shoot out to Middlesbrough.
Carlisle United have a long history, but not a particularly successful one. The club was founded in 1904 after a reorganization of the now defunct Shaddongate United. They changed their colors from yellow and navy blue to blue, white, and red. Carlisle spent most of their early years in the North Eastern League before joining the Football League in 1928.
Since promotion to the Football League, they've spent roughly equal times in the second, third, and fourth tiers. However, in 1974 Carlisle was promoted to their one and only season of top-flight football. The city remains the smallest by population to have ever had a team in the first division.
On the flip side of the coin, the club struggled mightily from 1997-98 to 2003-04, when they continually fought off relegation from the Football League, only finishing above 22nd once in League 2 during those years. This culminated in their eventual relegation in 2004, their one and only year out of the Football League since 1928.
As can be expected, Carlisle United do not have a great deal of honors to their name. They've won the third tier once (1964-65), and the fourth tier twice (1994-95, 2005-06). They've won the Football League Trophy (for League 1 and 2 sides) twice (1996-97, 2010-11). Among more familiar domestic cup competitions, they were quarter-finalists once in the FA Cup (1974-75), and semi-finalists once in the League Cup (1969-70).
The badge is based off of the city's coat of arms, and features: a red cross, two dragons, a castle and oh my god be more stereoptyical. Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, it also has a motto from Shakespeare's Henry VIII, "Be just and fear not." The club has numerous nicknames: the Cumbrians, the Blues, and the Blue and White Army. Carlisle were also formally known as the Foxes, due to a local connection with hunter John Peel, going so far as to put a fox on their badges in the 70's and 80's. Naturally, an anthropomorphized fox (named Olga) now roams the sidelines.
Carlisle United travel to Anfield tonight. Kick off is at 8 PM GMT.