The 2024/25 Premier League will have a distinctly southern feel in England. With Burnley and Sheffield United going down and Leeds failing to win Sunday’s promotion playoffs, just a handful of teams in next season’s competition hail from northern towns and cities in England. In total, there will be five teams from the north. The two Merseyside clubs join the two Manchester clubs and Newcastle United as the northern clubs in the Premier League.

That is the fewest number of teams in Premier League history to come from the north. Furthermore, you would have to go back to the 1989/90 First Division campaign to locate a season with five teams from the upper half of the country. If you are looking for any indication of how different the times were in English soccer, Liverpool won that season’s top-flight campaign. Aston Villa finished second with Tottenham pipping Arsenal for third. Manchester United finished 13th, which remains its worst top-flight finish since suffering relegation in 1973/74.

Traditionally, northern England is a hotbed for soccer in the country. Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City and Everton rank in the top five most successful clubs based on top-flight titles. Only Arsenal, which sits third on 13 league wins, breaks up the northern hegemony of English success. Yet, the northern clubs have failed to maintain their dominance in England. Manchester City and Liverpool are certainly two dominating forces, yes. But, this applies more to widespread control. Whether that be simply the number of teams in the first division or where they are placing in the table, clubs from the top half of the country have been in control for decades.

The shift from northern southern

There were as many as 11 teams from northern towns and cities in the Premier League. For example, the 2008/09 season had 11 teams in the top flight. That included the five currently playing, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Hull City, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic. The consensus among English soccer is that many of these teams are among the most storied in the country’s lore.

Yet, Blackburn Rovers, Sunderland, Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds United, Huddersfield Town and other teams with multiple first-division titles in their history have bowed out of the top flight. The north has a total of 75 top-flight titles in the history of English soccer. In their place, Ipswich Town, Leicester City, Southampton, Brighton and Hove Albion, Bournemouth and Brentford have a combined two top-flight titles. They represent the modern era of soccer, including savvy spending and often selling players to rival clubs through development.

By comparison, northern clubs have failed to adapt. Manchester United has made a knack of reckless spending that has ultimately been detrimental to the club’s success. Newcastle’s power spending has allowed it to rise to prominence and qualify for the UEFA Champions League for the first time in 20 years. Yet, Everton has financially struggled, Leeds United crashed down to the third tier briefly and Sunderland had a four-year stint in League One.

The future of the northern clubs in the Premier League

There are a number of factors that contribute to this power switch from north to south. The nature of the region, rapid and unpredictable success of the southern sides, and luck all play a role. Still, what remains clear is that the northern sides of the Premier League and English soccer must change their general direction to keep pace with those in the south.

It seems like a laughable argument to jog ideas of an All-Star game. The rumor was to pit the best players from the north against the best from the south. The more sensible discussion would be the London clubs against everyone else. There are seven teams in the capital city playing in the Premier League.

It would not take much for the north to re-establish itself in the top flight. For example, Leeds lost the playoff final. Also, two northern clubs went down this past season. Middlesbrough and Sunderland featured in the promotion playoff semifinals in 2022/23. Hull City and Preston North End were in the top half of the Championship table in 2023/24. The disparity exists, but it would not take much to close it.