The road to the richest game in sports begins Friday as the EFL Championship playoffs begin. While Fulham and Bournemouth secured automatic promotion to the Premier League thanks to finish in first and second respectively, Luton Town, Huddersfield Town, Sheffield United, and Nottingham Forest are the four teams playing to see who will be the last team to make the move up. Two-legged semifinals will culminate with the final on May 29.
Sheffield United were the most recent team to be in the Premier League out of those remaining, only getting relegated last season, while Luton Town dropped completely out of the top four divisions about a decade ago. They spent a few years out before returning to League Two in 2015 and now have a shot at the Premier League only seven seasons later in a remarkable turnaround.
Here’s the schedule and what to know:
Schedule and how to watch
All times Eastern
Friday, May 13
Luton Town vs. Huddersfield Town, 2:45 p.m. on ESPN+
Saturday, May 14
Sheffield United vs. Nottingham Forest, 10 a.m. on ESPN+
Monday, May 16
Huddersfield Town vs. Luton Town, 2:45 p.m. on ESPN+
Tuesday, May 17
Nottingham Forest vs. Sheffield United, 2:45 p.m. on ESPN+
Sunday, May 29
Sheffield/Nottingham vs. Huddersfield/Luton, TBD on ESPN+
Can Morgan Gibbs-White Keep it going?
One of the reasons why Sheffield United are on a hot streak is the performance of Morgan Gibbs-White. A lot of Paul Heckingbottom’s squad is similar to the one that was relegated from the Premier League except for Gibbs-White who is on loan from Wolverhampton. Playing as a number ten or a second striker, he has scored 11 goals and assisted nine more to finish second on the team to Billy Sharp in scoring (Sharp scored 14 and assisted seven). Able to provide a strong outlet in front of Sander Berge, Oliver Norwood, and John Fleck, Gibbs-White has been a catalyst in Sheffield United’s season and will need to keep his strong run of form heading into the playoffs.
Forest keeps rolling
To think that this team was closer to the relegation zone when Steve Cooper took over after moving on from Chris Houghton. They’ve really turned it on. Cooper almost pulled them into an automatic promotion place but they’ll be happy with a playoff spot and being one of the favorites to be promoted this season. It has been a true team effort under Cooper with Brennan Johnson leading the line, but they’ve gotten good performances from on-loan players like James Garner, Keinan Davis, and Djed Spence while also even having backups like Ethan Horvath deputize in net while collecting a few clean sheets.
Quiet but effective Huddersfield
Huddersfield has been a team that flew under the radar all season and then poof here they are third in the Championship. It’s a similar situation that got them to the Premier League in 2017 but following their relegation in 2019, it has taken some time to get back, jumping from the bottom half of the Championship into a playoff spot. Danny Ward is their leading scorer with 14 goals, but Harry Toffolo and Sorba Thomas have also been involved in double digit goals this season. United States national team fans will be keeping an eye on Duane Holmes as he has started 26 matches this season, scoring five goals.
Historic moments for Luton
Luton’s impressive rise back to the second division is quite something, but of the teams to make the playoffs, they’ve conceded the most goals at 55. While that’s not a terrible number by Championship standards, it will be a tough road for them to compete with some of the league’s more expansive attacks in the playoffs. With their attack, you know what you’re going to get as all roads lead to Elija Adebayo and Harry Cornick, who have combined to score 28 goals and have assisted eight more.