Huddersfield Town and Reading will do battle on Monday at Wembley Stadium for the right to take their place in the Premier League next season.
The Championship Playoff Final has come to be known as the most lucrative game in football, with the latest estimates suggesting a success under the iconic arch could be worth as much as £200 million to the victors. But the supporters who make their way to this one won’t be too concerned about that.
Indeed, Reading and Huddersfield fans will be dreaming of rubbing shoulders with some of the elite in world football in 2017-18. There’ll be a nervousness too, as losing at Wembley on this stage can be a bodyblow.
That’s because these two sides have worked so hard to make it this far. Reading performed brilliantly over two legs to tame an excellent Fulham outfit; Huddersfield, meanwhile, edged past last year’s finalists Sheffield Wednesday on penalties.
So while there would have been a sense from Town boss David Wagner and Reading manager Jaap Stam that there was nothing to lose for either side heading in to this post-season tournament, suddenly there is so much to gain. And for the loser, next season feels a long way away.
These connotations not only make the match one of the most important in world football, but also one of the most fascinating to watch for neutrals around the globe. Those who follow Huddersfield and Reading will be watching through their fingers on Monday afternoon.
Where to find Championship playoff final on US TV
Date: Monday, May 29, 2017
Time: 10am ET / 7am PT
US TV: beIN SPORTS and beIN SPORTS en Español
US Streaming: fuboTV (7-day free trial)
When David Wagner took over at Huddersfield in 2015, few anticipated they would be in the promotion hunt this season. But the coach has pushed the Yorkshire club on to incredible heights.
For much of the 2016-17 term, the Terriers were in contention for an automatic promotion spot alongside Newcastle United and Brighton. They did eventually fall short in accomplishing that lofty ambition and there were a few concerns on their part as momentum was lost in the final weeks of the season.
But they recaptured it brilliantly at Hillsborough in the second leg of their semi-final playoff. After being held on home soil and falling behind to Steven Fletcher’s headed, Town could have easily crumbled in the away leg. Yet they equalized through Nakhi Wells and eventually came through in a nerve-shredding penalty shootout.
It’s tough to argue against Huddersfield deserving to have made it so far, as they’ve surpassed expectations like no other club in the second tier. And they’ve been enthralling to watch at times too, with the Terriers seeking to win possession high up the pitch and exploit their opponents.
They’re a team that have relished some big stages this season and their no-fear football will surely be an advantage in what can so often be a nervy game. If Huddersfield can rattle the Royals early on, Stam’s side may find it difficult to settle in to their possession-based style of football.