Which team will join the PL next season?

On Sunday, May 26th, 2024, the footballing world will turn its attention to Wembley Stadium as Leeds United and Southampton clash in the Championship Playoff Final.

Often dubbed “the richest game in football,” this match carries the promise of PL promotion, with its lucrative financial rewards and the prestige of competing in one of the world’s top football leagues. It also brings an end to the English domestic football season as it is the last of the playoff matches and the FA Cup final will have been held one day prior, on the Saturday. Therefore, all the hard work from both Leeds and Southampton comes down to one final match.

Leeds United, a club with a storied past, has had its share of ups and downs in recent years. After falling out of the PL in 2004, the club spent 16 years in the lower leagues before their triumphant return in 2020 under the guidance of Marcelo Bielsa. However, their stay in the top flight was cut short, and they now find themselves fighting for another chance to return. They could have been promoted automatically but faltered at the end of the season and eventually lost out to Leicester and surprise team Ipswich. 

Southampton, meanwhile, have also experienced the highs and lows of English football. A consistent PL side for much of the past decade, they were relegated last season but have regrouped well under new management. Their resilience and experience make them formidable opponents in this crucial matchup. Russell Martin has certainly done an excellent job on the south coast and will be hoping for one final push from his players to take them back to the promised land that is the PL.

Route to the Final

Both teams have had a turbulent journey through the Championship this season. Leeds finished third, narrowly missing out on automatic promotion. Their campaign was characterised by strong attacking play, spearheaded by their Dutch winger, Crysencio Summerville. They were comfortable 4-0 winners over sixth placed Norwich in the semi-finals of the playoffs and manager Daniel Farke will be hoping for one more big effort in this showpiece final. 

Southampton finished just behind Leeds in fourth place. Known for their solid defensive setup and midfield dynamism, the Saints have been a tough team to beat. Their path to the final included a dramatic semi-final victory over Middlesbrough, showcasing their ability to perform under pressure. Their 87 goals scored in the standard season made them the highest scorers of the four teams that made the playoffs. They had two players that made it into the top ten goalscorers of the season, Adam Armstrong with 23 goals and Che Adams with 16.

Tactical Battle

The tactical battle between Leeds and Southampton promises to be fascinating. Daniel Farke knows what it takes to get a team promoted to the PL, although he has had less luck with keeping a team there but he will need to prepare his team well as Leeds have lost their last three playoff final appearances.

Southampton, managed by Russell Martin, are known for their disciplined approach and tactical flexibility. The south coast team do have a psychological advantage over their opponents going into this match as they secured a league double over them this season. However, the experience of playing at Wembley in a playoff final will be a new one for them as they have never had the honour of doing so.

Key Players

Leeds will definitely be without long term absentee Pascal Struijk but will hope that striker Patrick Bamford will be able to play a role and the likes of Wilfred Gnonto and Joel Piroe are likely to be key to the manager’s plans. Connor Roberts and Dan James can also play a key role for them. 

Southampton on the other hand will be delighted that Che Adams has recovered from a calf injury and should be fit to take part in this match but Stuart Armstrong is likely to miss out, as will Gavin Bazunu and Juan Larios. Young keeper Bazunu is a big loss for Southampton, his long term injury that was picked up a month ago is a big blow to both the player and club. 

Psychological and Financial Stakes

The psychological stakes of the Championship playoff final cannot be overstated. For Leeds, it’s a chance to re-establish themselves in the PL and capitalise on the commercial opportunities that come with it. For Southampton, it’s about returning to where they believe they belong and ensuring their long-term stability.

Financially, the game is often referred to as the “richest game in football” due to the estimated £170 million windfall that promotion brings. This includes increased broadcast revenue, commercial deals, and the financial benefits associated with being part of the PL’s global brand. For both clubs, this financial boost could transform their immediate futures, enabling them to invest in the squad and infrastructure. For the team that misses out, they will surely need to trim their squad as they will need to prepare for a longer stint in England’s second division, potentially without the parachute payments that relegated clubs receive.

Predictions and Expectations

The atmosphere at Wembley is expected to be electric, with both sets of fans known for their passionate support. Leeds United fans, often described as some of the most loyal and vocal in England, will be out in full force. Similarly, Southampton supporters, buoyed by their rich history and recent PL experiences, will create a vibrant backdrop to the match.

Predicting the outcome of such a finely balanced match is challenging. Leeds’ attacking flair and high-pressing game could unsettle Southampton, but the Saints’ experience and tactical discipline might just give them the edge. In matches of this magnitude, moments of individual brilliance or critical errors often swing the result. Set pieces could play a significant role, as could the performance of the referee. Likewise, the ability of both goalkeepers to handle pressure and make decisive saves will be crucial.

The intensity and importance of the match can make it a tense affair, so much so that ten of the last eleven Championship playoff finals have seen fewer than three goals scored in ninety minutes. Both teams have won four of the last ten meetings with the final two ending in a draw so there isn’t much to choose between the two teams. The odds favour Leeds to win, at a price of 2.33, whereas Southampton are currently priced at 3.21. Under 2.5 goals is slightly favoured at 1.85. It isn’t easy to pick a winner here but given the odds and the two wins Southampton already have this season, perhaps picking them at the higher price is worthwhile. The only real reason that Leeds are likely to be favoured is the experience of their manager and club as a whole at getting promoted and playing in this particular match as the three points between them in the final league table at the end of the season indicates just how closely matched they are.


The fact that the two teams contesting this event were relegated the previous season adds extra spice to the encounter and it is only the third time that it has ever happened in this division. As Leeds United and Southampton prepare for the Championship playoff final, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Both clubs have rich histories and passionate fan bases, making this showdown at Wembley a fitting climax to their long seasons. With PL football and significant financial rewards on the line, Sunday’s match promises to be a thrilling and nerve-wracking encounter. Football fans around the world will be eagerly watching to see who can seize the moment and secure their place in the top tier of English football.

Odds might have changed since the writing and publication of this article.

Last updated: 24.05.202