England’s Premier League is the most watched soccer league in the world and, despite a growing U.S. audience (approx. 10 million viewers), rarely garners much attention stateside except among the most devoted soccer fans. Yet this week it is front page news across the U.S. because of lowly Leicester City claiming its first Premier League crown in its 132-year history in what Time Magazine calls “the Greatest Cinderella Story in Sports History.”
Think of the Chicago Cubs winning . . . the NBA Title or David beating Goliath and his three brothers.
Leicester and Premier League 101
Leicester is in the East-Midlands of England, 101 miles northwest of London. It is England’s 11th largest city and one of its most diverse and fastest growing cities.
Leicester is home to England’s oldest basketball team and most successful Rugby team, but its soccer team had never won the Premier League championship in its 132-year history.
The Premier League consists of 20 teams who play each other twice in a season. There is no playoff, the Champion in selected by best record overall and, along with the other top 3 teams, participates in the European championship. At the end of the season, the bottom three-teams are relegated ton the Championship League from which three teams are promoted. Since the advent of tiered leagues, Leicester has been at the top level 48 seasons with 62 seasons in the second division and one season in the third.
In 2014 Leicester City returned to the Premier League for the first time since 2003-2004 but were sitting in last place facing certain relegation with 9 games to play. Remarkably, Leicester City won 7 of their last 9 games to avoid relegation.
5,000 to 1 Odds
Despite a strong finish, Leicester City opened the season with 5,000 to 1 odds of winning its first title. The 1969 “Miracle Mets” were only 100 to 1 odds.
They also only had a fraction of the Premier League’s heavyweight teams – defending champion Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal – who accounted for all but one championship since 1992.
A seasoned coach, team play and innovative use of analytics put Leicester in position to win the title last night, when Chelsea’s draw with Tottingham clinched first place for Leicester.
Finally, from Time Magazine for the uninitiated:
Most important, for all you Americans who want to impress your pals — English or otherwise — with your newfound appreciation for this remarkable story, Leicester is not pronounced Lee-cester or Li-chester or Le-ice-ster or some other butchering. It’s simply Lester.
Footnote – The Premier League is ranked #2 worldwide on a quality level second only to the Spanish La Liga (which features Real Madrid and Barcelona). The top-10 rankings, which scored on a 10-point scale based on excitement, competitiveness, quality of play, star power, success in continental soccer and average attendance, are as follows:
|1||Spanish La Liga||48|
|4||Italian Serie A||37|
|6||French Ligue 1||31|
|9||Brazilian Serie A||20|
|10||Major League Soccer||20|