The Championship promotion battle is the most exciting thing you aren’t watching

The Championship is the league below the English Premier League and there is a serious battle to see who promotes to the EPL. Right now, the top eight have a realistic shot to promote and we only have eight games left to decide who goes to the top division. This is going to come down to the wire. Going into this international break, here are the eight teams still alive to promote to the EPL.

It is important to note, the top two automatically promote to the EPL. 3rd through 6th will enter a promotion playoff (3rd vs. 6th and 4th vs. 5th) and the winners face each other at Wembley to see who promotes (and gains a TON of money).

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As you can see, there are four teams who are most likely to make the top two automatic spots. Bournemouth, Watford, Middlesbrough and Norwich City are all within three points of the top spot and two points from the all important 2nd spot. That’s not to say the other four teams can’t get up to the top two but it’s going to take a lot to cover that ground.

This leaves Derby County, Ipswich Town, Brentford and Wolverhampton as the four teams likely fighting to get into the promotion playoff. Like I said, these teams could move up into the top two but it’s going to take a lot.

The Teams

Bournemouth is currently leading and there are the rare sentimental favorite and overall favorite to promote. Bournemouth made their debut in the Football League in 1923 and have never promoted to the top division of English soccer. They have seen a metric rise after being in their worst position in history in the 2008-09 season where they finished 21st out of 24 teams and almost relegated. The next season, Bournemouth finished 2nd and promoted to League One. The season after (2010-11), Bournemouth got into the League One playoffs and finished 6th and eventually promoted to the Championship in the 2012-13 season. And After finishing 10th last season, Bournemouth exploded this season and look to continue their run to the EPL. With only Ipswich Town to deal with in their final seven games, Bournemouth has the inside track to not only promote, but win the Championship.

Watford and Middlesbrough are both tied for 2nd at 72 points but Middlesbrough are behind Watford +32 to +29 in goal differential. The two teams play a huge game against each other on April 6 and whoever wins will have a tremendous advantage to get one of the two automatic promotion spots.

Norwich City is going to try and be the team who bounces back to the EPL the year after relegating. That may sound easy but it’s much harder than what it looks. For instance, the other two relegated EPL teams, Cardiff City and Fulham, are currently 14th and 20th out of 24 teams respectively. Norwich is in a pretty comfortable position to at least earn a playoff spot if they fail to get into the top two. They have a game against Middlesbrough but if Norwich can get the win, that can potentially give them a chance at automatic promotion.

Derby County and Ipswich Town lead the teams who are likely out of the automatic promotions but are right in the thick of the playoff race. Both teams are very similar to each other. Both teams come from small towns in England and experienced great success years ago. Ipswich Town rose to fame winning the First Division in 1962 and experiencing consistent success throughout the 70’s. Derby County did the same when Brian Clough took them on a meteoric rise in the late 1960’s to win the First Division in 1972 and Dave MacKay did the same in 1975 after Clough controversially went to Leeds United.

Brentford and Wolves are currently on the outside, looking in for the promotion playoff. Brentford haven’t been back since just after World War II and Wolves received a rare double relegation as they were sent down to League One right after getting relegated to the Championship. They got back to the Championship and have very quietly put themselves in position to get back to the top league.

Predictions

Well let’s get the easy one out of the way, I have Bournemouth winning the Championship and promoting. I will be a little more confident after their game against Ipswich Town on April 3, but I’m pretty confident now.

The second promotion spot is going to be tougher to predict. It really is about who wins between Watford and Middlesbrough. Something just tells me Watford will take it. I really think Middlesbrough is going to do it because they are very strong (they beat Manchester City), but Watford wins that game and gets the inside track to win.

One of our other writers, Andy made his predictions as well. He also has Bournemouth and Watford taking the top two spots. For Bournemouth, Andy says, “The upstart club whom most outside of England (and plenty inside the country) have never heard of have one heck of an easy road to the end of the season. Just one game against the current top six makes their road to automatic promotion the easiest of them all. As long as the pressure doesn’t get to the club they’ll be heading up to the EPL for the 1st time in club history.” On Watford, “Full disclosure, this is my second favorite club in England thanks to former high school teammate Jay DeMerit’s playing days there and the family club atmosphere they’ve had for decades now. It also helps that they’ll control their destiny with games against Derby, a slipping Middlesborough and Nottingham Forrest.”

For the four playoff spots, I have the current 3rd through 6th. The order may be different, but you can bet to see Middlesbrough, Norwich City, Derby County and Ipswich Town in the playoff. As far as who wins, well they say “defense wins championships” and Middlesbrough has only allowed 30 goals, by far the lowest total of any team in the Championship. Derby County will give them a tough run and I fell they’ll meet Middlesbrough in the Final but Derby will lose out of promotion for a second year in a row. Andy also agrees that Middlesbrough wins the playoff, “While they’ll have to regroup after a few bad weeks, look for ‘Boro to do the business when it comes to crunch time. Getting Brentford in the semi-final round will be a huge help. From there all bets are off, but I’ll tip them for the win in the most lucrative match in all of football.”

So there you have it, with seven games left, any three of the eight discussed can win promotion. It’s going to be an exciting seven weeks plus the playoff. We will talk about the playoff Final a bit closer to the game but if you have never watched this, it is one of the craziest days of the soccer year. It’s a game where the winner will receive over a hundred million dollars and promotion to the EPL receiving even more money and the loser will stick in a lower division receiving hardly any money.

About Phillip Bupp

News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing, highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them. Follow me on Twitter @phillipbupp

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