Who will get promoted to the Premier League?
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Who will get promoted to the Premier League? Your Championship primer

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The Football League Championship returns on Saturday, as Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion look to keep hold of their automatic promotion places.

It won’t be easy.

[ MORE: Spurs-Man Utd recap | JPW’s 3 Things ]

Here is your guide to the final nine matchdays of the season for England’s second tier.

The top two

Marcelo Bielsa’s Peacocks and Slaven Bilic’s Baggies have 7- and 6-point cushions on third place with nine matches to go, a congested fixture list ready to tax the benches of all of the sides.

The playoff race

Third through sixth in the Championship will contest the playoffs for the third promotion spot to the Premier League.

Third-place Fulham will learn a lot about whether it’s in the race for automatic promotion or just a playoff probability within one week’s time. The Cottagers host fourth-place Brentford at 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday and go to Leeds one week later.

Fulham has 64 points, six back of second place and nine clear of seventh place. It would be very surprising if the Londoners didn’t keep hold of a playoff spot.

Brentford (60) and Nottingham Forest (60) have five-point advantages on seventh, nice but not too comfortable, while Preston North End’s one-point-above-sixth-place footing is uneven.

Six teams are within two wins of Preston’s 56 points. Seventh-place Bristol City has 55, Millwall and Cardiff City have 54, Blackburn and Swansea City have 53, Derby County has 51, and QPR’s on 50.

Who will get promoted to the Premier League?
Rooney’s Rams are six points behind the playoff places (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Americans Abroad

Speaking of QPR, USMNT veteran Geoff Cameron is a fixture for Mark Warburton’s London side. The 34-year-old has played 28 times this season.

Derby County has seen a fine season out of Duane Holmes, who has three goals and three assists. Not American, but ex-DC United man Wayne Rooney is Holmes’ teammate.

No American has played more Championship minutes than Fulham’s Tim Ream (3142). Next up are Wigan’s Antonee Robinson (2587) and Hull City’s Eric Lichaj (2546).

Matt Miazga is handling center back duties for Reading, while Cameron Carter-Vickers’ latest loan stint at Luton Town has gone well individually.

Luca De La Torre (Fulham) has seen neglible minutes this season.

English-born MLS and NCAA star Jack Harrison is with Leeds.

Manchester United academy product Jack Harrison of Leeds United went to school at Wake Forest before playing for NYCFC in Major League Soccer (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images).

The relegation scrap

Three clubs will go down to League One next season. Two of the three teams in the bottom three will need a massive change in fortunes to avoid that fate.

Barnsley is seven points back of 21st and Luton Town sits six points back of safety.

Charlton Athletic is currently in 22nd with 39 points, but it can look to a single win as chance to move ahead of any of the five sides ahead of it (depending on how goal differential goes).

Hull City, Wigan Athletic, and Middlesbrough are just two points above the drop zone, while Stoke City and Huddersfield Town have three-point distances above the drop.

Charlton can pass Hull with a win at the KC Stadium on Saturday, though it’s only other chance to affect a fellow struggler is July 18 versus Wigan.

This week’s schedule

Fulham v. Brentford — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Middlesbrough v. Swansea City — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Millwall v. Derby County — 8 a.m. ET Saturday
West Brom v. Birmingham City — 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Huddersfield Town v. Wigan Athletic — 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Hull City v. Charlton Athletic — 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Sheffield Wednesday v. Nottingham Forest — 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Luton Town v. Preston North End –10 a.m. ET Saturday
QPR v. Barnsley — 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Reading v. Stoke City — 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Blackburn Rovers v. Bristol City — 10 a.m. ET Saturday
Cardiff City v. Leeds United — 7 a.m. ET Sunday

EFL: Promotion, relegation will remain

League One
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The English Football League (EFL) have released details on how they plan to play out the Championship, League One and League Two campaigns as promotion and relegation will continue between the second and fifth tiers of English soccer.

League Two had previously asked for relegation to be removed by the governing body of the second to fourth tiers has dismissed that request.

The EFL have accepted that it may not be possible to finish the season in the lower leagues and if that is the decision the final table will be determined on unweighted points per game, with promotion and relegation kept in place and a four-team playoff will decide the final team promoted from each division.

Clubs in each league will vote next week on the guidelines, which only need a simple 51 percent majority to be ratified.

After separate leagues met in recent weeks to discuss options, League Two and National League clubs have decided to end their respective seasons, while League One clubs cannot agree on the next step and Championship clubs plan to restart their campaign alongside the Premier League in June.

If points per game is used in League One and League Two, here’s how the top and bottom of the tables will look:

League One
1. Coventry City (promoted automatically)
2. Rotherham (promoted automatically)
3. Wycombe (playoffs)
4. Oxford (playoffs)
5. Portsmouth (playoffs)
6. Fleetwood (playoffs)

21. Tranmere (relegated to League Two)
22. Southend (relegated to League Two)
23. Bolton (relegated to League Two)

League Two
1. Crewe (promoted automatically)
2. Swindon (promoted automatically)
3. Plymouth (promoted automatically)
4. Exeter (playoffs)
5. Cheltenham (playoffs)
6. Colchester (playoffs)
7. Northampton (playoffs)

24. Stevenage (relegated to National League)

Several clubs across the lower leagues in England are in a dire financial situation due to the coronavirus pandemic and curtailing the season would release much-needed funds, as they will not be able to play in safe environments and afford to following the safety and testing protocols needed. However, there is a real concern that the lower leagues may not be able to start the 2020-21 campaign due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

Below is a look at the statement in full from the EFL, as they say there is “strong desire to remain as faithful as possible to the Regulations and ensure there is consistency in the approach adopted across the EFL in all divisions.


1. Resuming the 2019/20 season with the existing format remains the most appropriate course of action from a sporting integrity perspective, but the Board accepts there are circumstances that may lead to curtailment (as has been demonstrated with League Two) or a situation subsequently transpires whereby the season is unable to conclude.

2. This means that, in the event of an early curtailment:

Final divisional placings should be determined on unweighted points per game (if required).
b. Promotion and relegation should be retained.
c. Play-Offs should be played in all circumstances but should not be extended (beyond four teams).

3. If a scenario arises whereby the Play-Offs cannot be played, the EFL Board will determine the appropriate course of action.

4. The Board considers that the majority required to curtail the 2019/20 season in any division should be 51%. Determining whether or not to curtail the season is a decision for each division to take.

5. The principle of relegation across all three divisions is integral to the integrity of the pyramid, from the Premier League down to the National League, provided we have assurances that the National League will start season 2020/21 (i.e. the relegated Club in League Two has somewhere to play).

6. Any regulatory solution should be relevant and specific to the current challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak and reach a conclusion that is clear and effective with the impact and justifications easy for all stakeholders to understand.

VIDEO: Best PL goals of 2018/19 season

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The 2018/19 Premier League campaign provided drama, and plenty of it. Manchester City would go on to win its second straight title in close to end-to-end fashion, but the eventual one-point margin of victory would be a harbinger of things to come.

Liverpool’s ascent was nearly complete, and the Reds fought the entire way down the stretch hoping to capitalize on a critical slip from the defending champions. That slip never came, and a 2-1 Manchester City victory over Liverpool in January proved essential to the ultimate result. A moment of sheer brilliance marked the title win, with Vincent Kompany bagging the all-important goal against Leicester City in May.

[ MORE: Best goals of 2017/18 Premier League season ]

While the title bout was raging, teams provided us with countless moments of brilliance up and down the table. Chelsea and Spurs won a ferocious battle for the final two Champions League places over Arsenal and Manchester United, while Wolves secured a spot in the Europa League with a fabulous campaign that saw them prove dangerous for all top sides. Brighton & Hove Albion hung on for dear life as Cardiff City, Fulham, and Huddersfield Town went down.

The fight for the Golden Boot was also vicious. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Sadio Mane, and Mohamed Salah all finished with 22 goals in a banner year for Africans in front of net. Sergio Aguero was right there at 21, Jamie Vardy scored 18, and both Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane bagged 17. They were not the only ones to produce sparkling moments, however, with the likes of Eden Hazard, Aaron Ramsey, Andros Townsend, Andre Gomes, and Jean-Michel Seri all popping up with stunners among the crowd. In the video above, Ian Wright guides us through the best goals of the year with contributions from Michael Owen and Alan Shearer, with Wright’s Top 5 given at the end.

EFL letter recommends clubs prepare for return ‘at short notice’

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The English Football League has sent a letter to all clubs advising they return to training in mid-May and prepare for a return to play from the coronavirus shutdown at what the EFL described as “relatively short notice.”

The letter from EFL chairman Rick Parry, which was sent to all 72 clubs before it was obtained by The Independent and shared by the BBC, notes that while the EFL does not have the power to enforce training schedules for clubs, it interestingly advises that clubs may suffer public relations damage should they return to training earlier than the advised May 16 date. The letter then addresses a rumored start date in early June without confirming or denying the viability of that date.

“By advising a mid-May return to training,” the letter reads, “it has inevitably led to speculation that the season will recommence on June 6 – three weeks later. No date has been discussed and we continue to work with the government and health authorities to help identify the date where we can resume our season. Our planning needs to be agile enough to allow us to be as prepared as possible for a return at relatively short notice.”

The letter is intentionally vague, leaving room for multiple possibilities, but does admit that “these [scenarios] are expected to take further shape over the course of the next two weeks and clubs will receive an appropriate briefing once these plans are at an advanced stage.”

The letter also invites clubs to share their thoughts and possibilities as the EFL notes “collaboration is key to achieving success in these challenging times.” It notes that many clubs have already expressed their thoughts about playing behind closed doors, admitting that is a very likely possibility for when the games recommence.

The Premier League is likely to follow suit shortly after videoconferencing Friday with all 20 clubs to discuss plans for the next few months and how to potentially return to play.

While it was not discussed in the letter openly, The Telegraph reported Friday morning that the EFL is considering its return to play using a limited number of Championship grounds – more specifically 10 stadiums – while closed-door games remain at the forefront.

USL League Two exec: ‘Still our intent to play in 2020’

USL League Two
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The United Soccer League can wait a while to make the wisest decision on the seasons for two of its leagues, but a third carries a running timer.

The fully professional USL Championship and USL League One are delayed through at least May 10, a date that costs the developmental USL League Two only 13 matches.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

League Two operates at the unofficial fourth tier of American soccer and has long been a showcase for top college players wishing to maintain their eligibility. Tim Ream, Graham Zusi, and Geoff Cameron are among a long list of USMNT veterans to have played in L2 — formerly called the PDL — before going pro.

The problem is that the season is played in a tight window between the end of college spring semesters and the recalling of players for fall. And each week that passes in May shrinks the window for clubs, some of whom are filled with a majority of out-of-town players.

Throw in the variety of obstacles for small clubs spread across a gigantic country in the coronavirus era and you’ve got a significant challenge.

The National Premier Soccer League, a fellow “fourth-tier” operation, announced earlier this week that it was “canceling” its 2020 schedule and re-evaluating how it can support its clubs should they want to play this summer. The UPSL postponed its season’s start to May 2, though that’s looking quite early, too.

So we talked this weekend with USL vice president Joel Nash about plans for the summer with League Two. He says a lot of clubs are raring to play once it’s safe, and that they will find the right road together.

“Our first priority has to be the health and wellness of everyone involved with our league, but based on the feedback we’ve received from our owners, it’s still our intent to play in 2020,” Nash said.

He says that some clubs or even entire divisions may find that it “makes sense to forego participation in this year’s competition” and that the USL will support those clubs.

“Our decision-making going forward will be rooted in the information we receive from public health experts.  We’re in regular communication with local, state, and national health authorities, as well as the CDC. We also sit on a national COVID-19 task force comprised of medical, legal, and operational experts from U.S. Soccer, Major League Soccer and the NWSL, to ensure that we are all aligned, and sharing guidance and best practices. Based on the information we receive, and the input of our owners, we’ll continue to make decisions that put the health and safety of our players, supporters and staff first.”

Could that mean an odd league season structure or some unusual competitions? Maybe. This is an atypical time in the world.

“We may have to get creative with our competitive format, but that’s true of everyone in sports at the moment,” Nash said. “We’re in daily conversations about how we can all work together give our clubs as many games as possible. … We are going to prioritize getting the greatest number of games in for the most number of L2 teams that want to play. We will then work with our owners to identify other non-L2 teams that we could supplement for additional games.”