There’s a case to be made for the Premier League being the world’s most competitive league from top to bottom. One tier below, the Championship might be one of the toughest leagues to escape.
Twenty-four teams, many with Premier League budgets, playing a 46-match schedule — eight more than the EPL teams have to navigate — can be quite a grind.
The prize for running that gauntlet is a place in the top flight next season, and a share of the world’s most lucrative TV deal.
Here’s a look at where things stand heading into the final weekend of the Championship schedule:
Who’s going up?: Burnley, relegated from the Premier League after last season, has already clinched a place in the EPL for next season. The Clarets also have the inside track on the title, with a two-point lead over Middlesbrough and Brighton.
Burnley visits already-relegated Charlton while the second- and third-place teams meet in a critical match (Saturday, 7:25 ET, Bein Sports).
The hosts, Middlesbrough, need only a draw to secure the other automatic promotion spot, thanks to its superior goal difference. Boro can still win the title if it wins and Burnley loses. A Burnley draw, coupled with a Boro win, would put both teams on 91 points. Burnley currently has a two-goal edge in goal difference, which is the first tiebreaker.
Brighton must win to clinch promotion Saturday. The Seagulls can also win the title with a victory and a Burnley loss, or a victory and a Burnley draw — assuming it can make up a four-goal deficit in goal difference.
Goal scored is the next tiebreaker, if you’re wondering.
Who’s in the playoffs, and what does that mean?: Either Middlesbrough or Brighton will be joined in the playoffs by the teams finishing fourth, fifth and sixth in the table. The order isn’t set yet, but Hull City, Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday will be those teams.
Either Middlesbrough or Brighton will face Sheffield Wednesday in one home-and-home tie while Hull City and Derby County play in the other.
The winners play at Wembley Stadium on May 28, with the final place in next season’s Premier League hanging in the balance.
Who’s going down?: Usually, the final day of the Championship features some drama at the bottom of the table, but this year, Charlton, MK Dons and Bolton are already destined to drop down to League One.