Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Premier League, the FA Cup, and Champions League Football

Football (ahem, soccer) is by far the number one sport in England. It dominates the back pages of the newspapers and it's always a topic for conversation at work on Mondays. I'd never really followed it in the US aside from during the World Cup, so I was at square one with understanding the English league system when I moved here.

The Premier League is made up of twenty clubs and is the top tier of football competition in England. Unlike professional leagues in the US, there is truly a tiered system, and teams can move up or down based on how they perform during a season. This is known as promotion and relegation, and I think it's a fantastic concept.

At the end of the season, the three last place teams are booted from the Premier League down to the lower level Football League Championship. Taking their place are the two top finishers from the Football League Championship, as well as the winner of a playoff between the third through sixth teams. Honestly, imagine if the NFL was able to relegate the Texans, Rams, and Jaguars and replace them with FSU, Auburn, and maybe the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Clearly there's incentive for Premier League clubs to stay afloat, and the end of the season becomes very interesting at both the top and bottom of the standings. The overall Premier League champion is the club with the most points - there isn't a playoff to determine the champion.

But, the top four teams are also entered into the next year's UEFA Champions League tournament, which brings together the top clubs from all over Europe.

England also has the FA Cup which is a tournament made up of teams from the top eight English leagues. So in a given week, you're likely to catch a match every three or four days if you follow one of the clubs competing in each competition.

We are supporters of Arsenal, known as the Gunners. Arsenal plays its home games in North London at Emirates Stadium, which is not far at all from where we live. We went to an FA Cup match against Liverpool several weeks ago and felt right at home. I wouldn't exactly call us diehards, but like with any sport it's fun having a specific team to follow.

I'm very excited that we'll be here during the World Cup, since everyone will be following it very closely for the entire month, and we can show our own national pride alongside everyone else. Just as long as the US can make it out of the Group of Death!