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Ted Lasso: The Difference Between English Championship And Champions League

The long-awaited finale to Apple TV+'s beloved sports comedy-drama "Ted Lasso" is finally here, and despite spending the past three years as the head coach of a professional soccer club, Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) himself still doesn't understand how the sport works. Ted's lack of soccer knowledge is on full display halfway through the finale, when he goes off on a rant about how the Championship and the Champions League are actually two separate things — one of which you can enter by finishing in last place and the other of which you can enter by only finishing fourth.

As English soccer fans will know, the English Football League (EFL) Championship is not actually a championship at all but is actually one of the many tiers within the English football pyramid. The highest tier is the English Premier League (EPL), while the second-highest tier is the EFL Championship — which AFC Richmond was demoted to in Season 1 before being subsequently re-promoted to the Premier League after their victory in the Season 2 finale. By contrast, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Champions League is actually a competition between the top division clubs from multiple European football leagues under the UEFA.

One such league happens to be the Premier League, which is why Ted Lasso and the rest of AFC Richmond could technically make the Champions League by finishing fourth but would go to the Championship if they finish last.

Qualifying for the Champions League versus promotion and demotion

Although Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) explains the complex nature of European football promotion and the Champions League through one simple word ("money"), the actual rules behind this process are still pretty hard to follow. The number of teams that a European football league can enter into the Champions League is based on the association's success rate (wins and draws) over the past five seasons in the Champions League, Europa League, and Europa Conference League.

The top-performing leagues, including the English Premier League, send their top four clubs to the Champions League each season, which would (in the world of "Ted Lasso," at least) be Manchester City, AFC Richmond, Arsenal, and Newcastle United, in that order. By contrast, demotion, or relegation, within the Premier League affects the bottom three teams in the league (in real life, this ended up being Southampton, Leeds United, and Leicester City in 2023), to be replaced by the top three teams from the EFL Championship — with teams three through six playing a tournament to see who enters earns the third open spot in the Premier League.

By all accounts, this process (and the misleading nomenclature around these leagues) is a bit hard to grasp for outside viewers of "Ted Lasso," though the important thing to note is that AFC Richmond has now entered the most prestigious league in all of European football — and successfully knocked West Ham United out of the Champions League along the way, denying them that fourth spot in the rankings with their exciting victory in the finale.