Kids, upstarts steal Cup spotlights

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We've got a first here in Rankingsville: a club previously ranked No. 1 tumbling all the way off the rundown. Part of that is due to the fact that we played hooky last time out during the international break, and we've now missed almost an entire month's worth of action to dissect. More of it is due to the job Real Madrid is doing to itself, losing three of its last five in all competitions, culminating in Tuesday's disastrous 4-0 shocker at third-division Alcorcón in the Copa del Rey. It's no secret Madrid doesn't put much stock in Spain's cup competition -- los Blancos have made it past the last 16 only twice over the past six years and often have been bounced by second- and third-division clubs. But losing to a team with 1/400th your payroll is about as embarrassing as it gets. For now, Real is out.

Still, domestic-cup time in Europe is one of my favorite parts of the season. Tiny clubs with fantastic names (Scunthorpe United and Go Ahead Eagles, to name a couple) and even more fantastically named players (calling Coke Andújar and Shqipran Skeraj!) going toe to toe with the big boys, often in giant-killing fashion. On the line is some usually ridiculous-looking trophy you wouldn't want in your living room (check out Germany's Monty Python-esque DFB-Pokal). But hey, in the hardware-obsessed world of international soccer, you take what you can get. As always, feel free to lambaste me (tastefully) here.

Note: All rankings, records and statistics are through Oct. 28.

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