Three years ago Leicester City won the Premier League title, one of the most astonishing stories in English soccer history. Neutral fans, and fans of English teams besides the traditional powerhouses, were thrilled at the hope it gave the little teams.
Each year since, six teams — Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham — have finished in places one through six in the league. The gap in the standings between the top six and bottom 14 has grown every season; it’s currently 13 points this year. Moreover, the top six could achieve unprecedented European dominance, as both the Champions League and Europa League finals could be all-English affairs.
England has more genuine title contenders than any other league in Europe, but that hasn’t made the league any more competitive. The Premier League must find a way to grow beyond its already maxed-out TV contracts, in which the top six account for nearly nine of every 10 dollars the league brings in. Next year the TV contract is changing to give the six even more money.
Improving the 14, not further boosting the top six, should be the league’s focus as it fights to stay on top of global club soccer.
• The world-best U.S. women’s national team needs to stay competitive in the women’s club game, too, or risk losing out to traditional European soccer powers, which are increasingly women’s powerhouses too. The Juventus women’s team just clinched the club’s second title in as many years of competing. The women’s Champions League semifinals include Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Lyon and Chelsea. As those clubs get richer, they’ll start to compete with the U.S. for players, sponsors and fans.
• European Club Association President Andrea Agnelli, who also runs Juventus, sent a letter to the 232 members of the association that proposed a dramatic overhaul of European competition beginning in 2024. It includes more games, notably four eight-team groups in the group stages, instead of eight four-team groups. It also would base qualification on the previous year’s European results rather than domestic league results. Europe’s leagues face a decision: Is continental competition more important than domestic?
Bundesliga: Schalke at Borussia Dortmund, 8:30 a.m. Saturday, FS2. Dortmund is one point behind Bayern in the league title race. Schalke is only six points ahead of the relegation spots. The always-high Revierderby stakes are stratospheric this time.
Writer Jon Marthaler gives you a recap of recent events and previews the week ahead. E-mail: email@example.com