Why the EFL Championship qualifiers are the best sporting event

Ryan O’ writerMay 26, 2023, 04:00 ET2 Minute Read

Coventry City have not been in the Premier League since the turn of the century, but they are 90 minutes away from returning to England’s top flight.Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Don’t you love it when the title is decided with one team sitting in a boardroom and the others losing a game to a team 51 points from first place?

If you are a Manchester City fan, employee or family member then you are. But for everyone else, a potentially classic Premier League title race quickly fell apart as Arsenal capitulated after Easter. The same goes for a top-four pursuit that once included more than six teams, but suddenly seemed decided before the end of the season as Man United and Newcastle sealed the places with free time. So did the relegation fight, which comprised nearly half the league but now has just three teams (Everton, Leeds and Leicester) and a two-point gap between 17th and 18th, with Southampton already down.

– Stream Live: Coventry City v Luton Town, Sat 5/27, 11:40 a.m. ET, ESPN+

Every commercial sports competition tries to strike a balance between identifying the best team and creating the most excitement. American sports leaned towards the latter, with long regular seasons to determine the top seeds followed by an abbreviated cup competition to determine the champion.

Analysis by Michael Lopez, now senior director of football data and analytics at the National Football League, found that the best team progresses from an NBA top-seven series about 80% of the time. On the other end of the fairness spectrum, you have baseball: a 162-game regular season and then a playoff series that should be best-of-75 to identify the best team as often as the NBA playoffs.

Both of these leagues are struggling to devalue the regular season, although that’s not the Premier League’s problem. The structure of a typical European domestic league is about as fair as it gets: everyone plays the same schedule, and whoever gets the most points overall is the champion. Week 2 counts as much as Week 32, but when one team is much better than the others – which is inevitable given the unequal buying power between these leagues – you often get a situation like the one we will see this Sunday. , where the last games of the season are also the least important.

Luckily, this weekend will also feature the final of the football competition – and perhaps one of the best designed competitions in all of sport: the Championship Play-Offs.

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