Four Soccer Narratives to Keep An Eye On This Weekend

Including championships, relegation and European competitions

May 27, 2023 5:36 am
Leeds-Fulham game
Antonee Robinson of Fulham is challenged by Weston McKennie of Leeds United during the Premier League match between Fulham FC and Leeds United at Craven Cottage on April 22, 2023.
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Under the right circumstances, the end of a soccer league’s season can make for moments of high drama. In certain years, championships have been determined by the outcome of games on the final matchday of a season; so too have questions of promotion and relegation. This year, two of the world’s biggest leagues are winding down their seasons this weekend, with a couple of high-stakes questions still awaiting an answer.

So if you’re looking for gripping narratives, look no further — on Saturday, the Bundesliga’s teams will play their final match of the 2022-23 season, and on Sunday it’ll be the Premier League’s turn. And there’s also the matter of a game between two second division English teams that could have a huge impact on next season’s Premier League. What follows is a quick guide to all that’s at stake this weekend.

Who’s Winning the Bundesliga?

You can set your watch to certain things in soccer, and for the last decade, one of those has been Bayern Munich winning the Bundesliga title. They have, in fact, won 10 in a row. It’s a statement of just how dominant this club is; the fact that they’ve been able to accomplish this in the midst of a very competitive league is even more compelling.

This year, that might change: with one game left to play, Borussia Dortmund has a slim two-point lead over Bayern Munich at the top of the table. Borussia Dortmund are set to play 1. FSV Mainz 05; Bayern Munich will face 1. FC Köln. A Borussia Dortmund win or a Bayern Munich loss brings Borussia Dortmund the title. If the two teams end up level on points, goal differential will determine the league champion, and right now Bayern Munich has an advantage there.

Who’s Getting Relegated From the Premier League?

Three teams will be making their way into the second division of English men’s soccer once Sunday’s games are over. Southampton’s fate was sealed weeks ago, but there are still two spots to play for. Leicester City and Leeds United each have 31 points as of now; Everton has 33. (16th place Nottingham Forest looks safe right now with 37 points.) All three of these teams are vulnerable right now; two of them will not be playing in the first division next season.

Quite frankly, there aren’t any good options here. If U.S. Men’s National Team captain Tyler Adams plays for Leeds United, as do his national team teammates Brendan Aaronson and Weston McKennie (the latter on loan from Juventus). Everton face existential questions over their future if they’re relegated. As for Leicester City, it hasn’t been that long since their unlikely Premier League championship in the 2015-16 season. Hearts are going to be broken on Sunday afternoon — the only question is which fanbase they will belong to.

Who Will Be the Third Team Promoted to the Premier League?

Two of the three Championship League teams being promoted to the Premier League next season have been determined — Burnley and Sheffield United. On Saturday, Luton Town and Coventry City will play a game to determine which of them will be making the leap into England’s top division. 

Both clubs have plenty of charming features that are deeply appealing for a neutral observer. In the case of Luton Town, that includes their stadium, Kenilworth Road, which has a capacity of slightly more than 10,000. (By contrast, the Premier League’s largest stadium by capacity, Old Trafford, can hold over 74,000.) While the team has plans to move into a new facility, its current one — with one entrance in the middle of a residential block — has an appeal all its own.

As for Coventry City, well, they’ve been known to wear kits that pay homage to the city’s deep connection with Two-Tone. Burnley might have a celebrity owner in J.J. Watt, but do they have a history of jerseys that can immediately get the music of The Specials stuck in your head?

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What’s Happening with English Teams in European Competitions?

Going into the last week of play in the Premier League, the top four is guaranteed: Manchester City is at the top of the table, followed by Arsenal, Newcastle and Manchester United. All four will be competing in the UEFA Champions League next season. As for the Europa League, it seems likely that Liverpool and Brighton & Hove Albion will be competing in it next season.

When it comes to the third European tournament, however — the Europa Conference League — well, that’s when things get a little more complicated. ESPN has a good breakdown here. Aston Villa (58 points), Tottenham Hotspur (57 points) and Brentford (56 points) are all in contention for seventh place in the league, which would also qualify that team for Conference League play.

A few games will have outsized influence — particularly Leeds hosting Tottenham, which could have a significant impact on both clubs’ fortunes next season. It’ll be a weekend with a lot at stake for teams, players and fanbases alike.

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