Southampton Returns to Premier League After Seven-Year Absence

Southampton beat Coventry 4-0 to earn promotion to the Premier League after a seven-year absence from English soccer’s top division.

Billy Sharp, Jose Fonte, Jos Hooiveld and Adam Lallana scored to secure Southampton’s runner-up finish to Reading in the second-tier Championship. The top two teams in the league are automatically promoted, with the next four teams entering the promotion playoffs.

Southampton was relegated from the Premier League in 2005, ending a 27-year run in the top flight. Beset by financial problems, the Black Cats dropped to third-tier League One in 2009 and remained there until last season, when they were promoted back to the Championship after a second-place finish.

Winning promotion to the world’s richest soccer league is worth at least 90 million pounds ($143 million), accountant Deloitte LLP estimates. Promoted teams benefit from at least 40 million pounds in additional revenue and minimum guaranteed payments of 48 million pounds in the following four seasons if they drop straight back down.

Fifty-four percent of all promoted teams retained their Premier League status the next season, according to Infostrada Sports. The percentage rises to 63 percent for teams who finish first in the Championship.

Cardiff City defeated Crystal Palace 2-1 to join West Ham, Birmingham and Blackpool in the playoffs. Third-place West Ham beat Hull 2-1, Birmingham defeated champion Reading 2-0 and Blackpool drew 2-2 at Millwall.

Wembley Final

West Ham will play Cardiff and Birmingham will meet Blackpool in two game-playoffs, with the winners advancing to the May 19 final at Wembley Stadium.

Coventry, Portsmouth and Doncaster, the bottom three teams in the standings, lost their final games before being relegated. Portsmouth was beaten 2-0 at Nottingham Forest and Doncaster, which finished last in the 24-team league, lost 3-2 to Ipswich.

Watford defeated Middlesbrough 2-1, Barnsley and Brighton tied 0-0, Burnley drew 1-1 with Bristol City, Leicester beat Leeds 2-1 and Derby tied 1-1 with Peterborough in the other matches on the final day of the season.

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