Underdogs across the pond: A small club has a chance to become first small club in decades to become champs

Michael Morgan

Leicester:
Pronuncation: \ˈles-tər\ or
Part of speech: Noun
Definition: An English soccer team you’ve probably never heard of that happens to be on the verge of winning the Barclays Premier League.

If you walk down the street in an American city and ask a random person to name an English soccer team, there’s a good chance he would be able to name one club.

Even if he could name four or five teams, odds are he wouldn’t have named Leicester City Football Club. But those odds might be better than the Leicester’s projected odds to win the Premier League at the start of the season.

The small club from central England was given astronomical 5000:1 odds to hoist the trophy at the end of the year.

In English soccer, the team with the best record at the end of the season is crowned champion.

There is no playoff tournament to determine the season’s champ. With just three games left and a seven-point lead on the runners-up, Leicester needs just one more win to secure the league title.

Meanwhile, by league rules, the three teams that finish at the bottom of the league standings are relegated to an inferior league called Football League Championship. Last season, Leicester finished six points, the equivalent of two wins, from being relegated. Now they stand atop the one of the most prestigious leagues in the world.

Abroad in London last year, I was able to score Arsenal vs. Leicester City tickets in the third row for just 15 pounds, or roughly 22 USD, simply because Leicester was performing so badly and people were not interested in watching them play.

In the past 20 years, only Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal have won titles. It is striking looking back at recent champions, and realizing that outside of those four clubs, it’s hard to even think anyone else even stands a chance.

In English soccer, the Premier league has turned into a big competition of the “haves” and “have nots.” Leicester represents the quintessential “have not,” small English city club with diehard fans that tend to narrowly avoid relegation.

The “haves” are the Chelseas and the Arsenals that have experienced championships and are the classic cases of the “rich getting richer.”

This year, we are finally seeing a breakthrough of a smaller club thriving from the less populous, less wealthy part of the nation in the north.

Is this a fluke, and next year we will go back to seeing the usual four suspects dominating the top of the league’s standings, or is it a sign of things to come? Or is this the inspiration that smaller clubs need to show them that they are relevant, leading to other clubs to make a push for the title in years to come?

For the networks like NBC that show European soccer on television regularly, they will hope it’s the latter.

Since the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, we have seen a push for more soccer coverage in the United States to jumpstart interest in the sport from American markets. Efforts have been noticeable, but not sufficient to drawing significant interest in the sport.

But everyone loves a Cinderella story, and Leicester City’s championship run may be the spark that America needs to bring interest in soccer in America to new heights.