The 2023/24 Championship season is about to return from the international break and the race for promotion is ready to resume.
Burnley, Sheffield United and Luton Town were the lucky ones to earn themselves a place in the top flight last season and have been replaced by Leicester City, Leeds United and Southampton in 2023/24, who all have experience in gaining promotion to the Premier League.
For those not in the know, perhaps new to football, the promotion system in England allows three teams from the Championship to be promoted to the Premier League at the end of each season. This is at the detriment of the bottom three teams in the top flight, moving down to Championship level.
The top two teams in the Championship qualify for promotion automatically, making those spots some of the most lucrative in all of football. The third team worthy of promotion is then decided by a play-off, with the teams finishing third to sixth entering a tournament. Across two two-legged semi-finals and a final at Wembley — dubbed the richest game in football — the winner is then promoted to the Premier League.
So who are the favourites to reach the top flight this time around?
*Odds correct as of 22:00 on September 14
Who could be promoted to the Premier League?
The route to promotion seems to mostly lie within two camps. The first comprises the clubs relegated from the Premier League, who have had a very strong record of bouncing straight back recently. In each of the past three seasons the Championship winner has been one of the sides to drop down from the Premier League the previous campaign.
Former play-off losers also have a strong record the following season with six promoted clubs in the past five Championship seasons having tasted defeat in the previous campaign’s play-off matches (semi-finals or final).
The promotion odds indicate we should expect some other newcomers to have a brief stay in the Championship. With the parachute payments providing them with financial stability, they possess a significant advantage over their counterparts.
Only four out of the twelve relegated clubs have finished outside of the top six since 2019/20, underlining the significance of maintaining a strong competitive edge in the league.
Labelled as early favourites for promotion, former Premier League winners Leicester City will be looking to bounce back at the first attempt under the guidance of former Man City coach and Pep Guardiola disciple Enzo Maresca. The Italian lost key players in James Maddison and Harvey Barnes, but has made a good start to life in the Championship.
The Foxes won each of their opening four games, beating Coventry City, Huddersfield Town, Cardiff City and Rotherham. But the perfect start came to an end before the international break, with Hull handing Maresca is first league defeat.
Playing in the second division of English football for the first time in 11 years, the Saints hope that a change in manager will help them return to the Premier League at the first time of asking. Russell Martin has been given the job by the Southampton board to right the wrongs of those that went before him last term and he had a squad full of talent to help him.
Well, James Ward-Prowse has moved to West Ham and Romeo Lavia has gone to Chelsea, so Martin was already fighting an uphill battle. It was a decent start for Saints with 10 points from their opening four matches, but they tasted a heavy 5-0 defeat before the international break to Sunderland.
Leeds’ three-year spell in the top flight came to an end in May, with the gamble of appointing Sam Allardyce for the remaining four matches of the season not paying off. The Whites spent 10 seasons in the Championship beforehand, trying and failing to gain promotion, before Marcelo Bielsa finally ended all those years of hurt in 2020.
This time they will have to go again under the tutelage of Daniel Farke, who has the perfect CV for the Championship, having led Norwich to promotion in both 2019 and 2021, earning a club record 97 points in the latter season. However, they have won just one of their opening five games, sitting in the bottom half of the table right now.
No one had these among the favourites for promotion in the build-up to the season but a good start has seen Ipswich rise up the odds. The Tractor Boys are currently second having won four of their opening five Championship matches, losing only to Leeds. Let’s remember Ipswich were only promoted from League One in the summer, so it’ll be interesting to see if they can carry their form on.
After a poor season last time out by their standards, Norwich are now back in the familiar position of figuring among the Championship favourites. The Canaries are blessed with a wealth of attacking talent and have already scored 14 goals in five games so far this season, helping them take 10 points. However, their defence has also been a bit leaky, conceding eight goals, including two in their first defeat to Rotherham before the international break.