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Football 101: An Introduction To "The Beautiful Game". The English Premier League
By STEVEN McMENEMY, MOP Squad Sports Soccer Editor
Jan 15, 2005, 14:36
 
The English Premier League is regarded as one of the best soccer leagues in the world. It is certainly one of the richest.

It comprises the best 20 clubs in the country and is one of the most watched soccer leagues in the world, with a television audience of over 500 million.

The top Premier League players are the rock stars and movie stars of our time and can command salaries of 3 or 4 million($5-$7 million)a season. This may be small in relation to some of the top sports stars in the United States but it is regarded as obscene by many soccer fans who pay hard earned cash to watch the game.

The 20 Premier League clubs play each other once home and away giving a total of 38 games. At the end of these games the club with the highest points total are the winners. The three teams with the lowest points total are relegated to another division, now known as the Championship. The Championship itself provides the three replacements teams to make up the 20 for the next season.

In summary at the end of every season three clubs lose their Premier League status, and the riches that this entails, to be replaced by three from the Championship.It goes without saying that relegation from the Premier League is financial disaster for those clubs involved, while promotion is regarded as a lottery win for the others.

Thierry Henry is one of the star players for current English Premier League Champions Arsenal.

In addition the top two sides in the league qualify automatically for the UEFA Champions League for the next season( A competition I will explain in future articles). The teams that finish third and fourth qualify for the final qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League. The fifth-placed team qualifies for the UEFA Cup.

England also has two other important soccer competitions, the F.A. Cup and the Carling Cup.

The F.A. Cup is one of the oldest sports tournaments in the world and is a competition open to clubs from every division in England, from Premier League through to part time clubs playing Non League football.

As a result a team with part time players and a tiny following can find itself playing a glamour tie against Chelsea, Arsenal or Manchester United. It is for this reason that the F.A. Cup has always had an aura of romance surrounding it.

Ties are drawn at random and the competition is played on a knock out basis, which means if you lose one game you are out of the cup for that season. Eventually the teams are reduced to just two who play the F.A Cup Final in May with a place in the UEFA Cup at stake as well as the prestige of winning such an historic trophy.

The Carling Cup is a knock out trophy too, but without the romance of the F.A. Cup, although it still delivers a UEFA Cup place for the winner.

If a club already in Europe wins the FA Cup, the UEFA Cup place goes to the runners-up. If the runners-up are also already in Europe, the place will go to the next highest-placed Premier league team. If the winners of the Carling Cup are already in Europe the UEFA Cup place goes to the next highest-placed Premier league team.

All in all it might seem complicated and in truth it is. However the main thing to remember is that the most important trophy to win in England is undoubtedly the English Premier League, with the F.A. Cup regarded as the second most important and the Carling Cup in third place.