Blackpool beat Birmingham 3-2 over two games to join West Ham in the Championship playoff final, where both will seek an immediate return to English soccer’s Premier League.
Last night’s 2-2 tie at St. Andrew’s in Birmingham was enough for Blackpool to advance after it opened the two-match semifinal with a 1-0 home win six days ago.
The Tangerines and Hammers will meet May 19 at Wembley Stadium for a place in the Premier League. Both teams were relegated from the 20-team top flight last year, and West Ham dominated their two matches this season by winning 4-0 at home and 4-1 away.
“We feel we’ve got a point to prove after they beat us convincingly in the two games in the league,” Blackpool midfielder Matt Phillips said in a televised interview. “We’re going to go there and give it a good effort.”
The playoff final is the richest soccer match in the world. Winning it is worth at least 90 million pounds ($145 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.
Reading and Southampton were automatically promoted as the champion and runner-up in the Championship this season.
Blackpool will be making its second playoff final appearance in three seasons. The Tangerines beat Cardiff 3-2 in 2010 to return to the top division for the first time since 1971.
Goals from Stephen Dobbie and Phillips gave Blackpool a 2-0 lead early in the second half last night. Birmingham’s Nikola Zigic scored in the 64th minute and Curtis Davies added a second goal nine minutes later, though Blackpool held on.
“Halfway through the second half I felt fine,” Blackpool manager Ian Holloway said. “Once they got a goal it changed everything. It got the crowd on their side and we forgot to play. At the end of the day it was about finishing with one more goal than them and I am very proud of my boys for coming through.”