The first round of the Luis Rubiales reformatted Copa del Rey is the polar opposite of what the Superliga breakaways clubs aspire to in the game. Modest clubs such as: Huracán Melilla, Panadería Pulido, Villa de Fortuna, CD Laguna, San Agustín, Pulpileño all got to play established names enjoying their '15 minutes of fame'. Some former big names, currently wallowing in lower leagues such as Cordoba got to taste what it was like to host a high profile opponent as 15,000 fans packed into the Archangel stadium to see their side eventually fall to Sevilla, in a classic Andalusian derby with Lopetegui's men needing an extra-time strike from Lucas Ocampos to advance.
All these smaller clubs (or in the case of Córdoba, a big club currently enduring hard times) progressed to the first round on merit and an attractive Copa del Rey game serves as a bonus for these sides whose main prerogative is to secure promotion to a higher division. Despite few advancing, the players from these smaller clubs will always remember the time they faced the likes of Joaquin, Oscar Trejo, Jorge Molina ....Many of these clubs hail from depopulated areas of Spain and just the thought of a high profile first or second side is a major shot in the arm for the inhabitants of the town or village with the sensation of 'Christmas arriving early' palpable from the way the smaller clubs respond to the event with special edition shirts and scarves.
For some of the first and second divination sides, these cup games involve considerable cross-country trips (Miranda to Lepe, Oviedo to Andratx or A Coruña to Murcia…) with games taking place on artificial surfaces at local municipal grounds. The scenes from the Solares (Cantabria) vs Espanyol epitomized this perfectly with the astroturf pitch glistening with the constant rainfall as the top flight sides struggle to adapt to the rudimentary conditions. With the gate receipts going to the home side along with a decent cash injection from the television rights, this format of the Copa del Rey also acts as an important revenue stream for smaller clubs and offers fans of these sides to dream big, if only for 90 minutes.