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The road to the richest game in sport begins on Saturday as the EFL Championship playoffs kick off. One of Sunderland, Coventry, Luton Town or Middlesbrough will join Sheffield United and Burnley as the third team to be promoted to the Premier League for next season. Ending at Wembley on May 27, one of these storied clubs will make their return to the Premier League, and we could possibly get a massive derby match in the final if Boro and Sunderland are able to make it.

Let's take a look at what making it to the Premier League could mean for each of these teams. Seeped in history from top to bottom, let's take a look:


The most recent club of this group to be in the Premier League, Boro were last in the Premier League during the 2016-17 season but under Aitor Karanka their attack struggled and the team got relegated after only scoring 27 goals, the lowest figure in the league. Known for their defense for years, the club has undergone a change this season after Michael Carrick took over in October as the team was struggling under Chris Wilder.

Behind Championship player of the year Chupa Akpom, Boro has been able to score at will as United States international Zack Steffen protects the net. If they can make it past Coventry, it will create half of the Tees-Wear derby between them and Sunderland. Separated by two rivers, the two clubs form a rivalry triangle that also includes Newcastle United. Either coming back to the Premier League would be a return of a formidable rivalry while also bringing another Midlands club to show that all the league's power isn't in London. They also have the weird quirk of playing Coventry not only on the final day of the season but also in the playoffs. Both teams made changes in that match but after drawing, they'll have a good feel of what each other can do.


Moving to the other side of this match, Coventry was last in the Premier League in 2001 and have bounced between divisions since. After finding stability in the Championship after returning in 2021, they're three games away from ending a 20-plus-year absence from the Premier League. A team with history after winning the FA Cup in 1987, they've rallied behind Viktor Gyokeres who has scored 21 goals and assisted 10 more. A full Sweden international and having spent time in Brighton, Gyokeres is able to perform under pressure when the team needs him most.

If they return to the league, Coventry can become the first team to fall to the fourth division of English soccer and actually make it back. Teams that go through their journey either keep falling or stabilize in a lower division, but even coming close to going out of business didn't stop them. Under new ownership, the future looks bright for the Sky Blues but they have to make good on their potential.

Luton Town

They almost made it to the Premier League last season under Nathan Jones and a shoestring budget, but even after losing their manager to Southampton this season, the team is back in the running for promotion. Another team that has gone through the rollercoaster of the lower divisions, Luton were last in the top flight in 1996. Falling as low as League Two after being docked 30 points due to transfers and exiting administration, the team has been able to stabilize to reach the top half of the Championship in consecutive seasons. 

Led by another American in net, Ethan Horvath, if the team can pass Sunderland to get to the Championship final, Wembley could feature a battle of the Americans. It's a team that has the organization needed to advance in the playoffs.


A story made for TV, the focus of the Netflix special Sunderland Until I Die, this is a team that has a lot in common with Coventry. After being relegated from the Premier League in 2017, the team kept falling down the divisions settling in League One for four seasons. But if the team is able to be promoted this season, they could cap off consecutive promotions with the biggest prize possible of a Premier League return.

Under the ownership of 26-year-old Kyril Louis-Dreyfus, the team has turned around their transfer dealings and only needed one season of him in charge to gain promotion. He has played a large role in their rise, but the players on the pitch are the focus. Patrick Roberts, Jack Clarke, and Amad Diallo have been able to combine for a strong attack of budget players and also add to the clubs with an American on the roster with Lynden Gooch featuring at wing back.

Championship playoff bracket

Semifinals first leg

  • Saturday, May 13, 12:30 p.m. ET: Sunderland vs. Luton Town
  • Sunday May 14, 7 a.m. ET: Coventry City vs. Middlesbrough

Semifinals second leg

  • Tuesday, May 16, 3 p.m. ET: Luton Town vs. Sunderland
  • Wednesday, May 17, 3 p.m. ET: Middlesbrough vs. Coventry City

The Championship Playoff Final takes place on Saturday, May 27 at 11:45 a.m. ET.