Today’s matchup is between the 3-seed Leicester City and the 6-seed Newcastle United. First, a tale of the tape (most information from this wonderful post):
Nickname: The Foxes
Founded: 1884 (as Leicester Fosse FC)
Team Colors: White / Royal Blue
Kit Manufacturer: Adidas (since 2018)
Primary Kit Sponsor: King Power
Ground: King Power Stadium (capacity 32,315)
Manager: Claude Puel (since 2017)
Nickname: The Magpies
Team Colors: Black / White
Kit Manufacturer: Puma (since 2010)
Primary Kit Sponsor: Fun88
Ground: St. James’ Park (capacity 52,354)
Manager: Rafael “Rafa” Benitez (since 2016)
Based on their seeds from my highly scientific methods, Leicester City should come out on top, though the top seed in the individual matchups have had a 50% success rate thus far.
As you would expect from a team in the top half of the bracket, Leicester City managed to win one of the rated categories; of my final eight, they were far away the leader in net profit, netting nearly $104M for the year ending June 2017. This was partially due to a quarterfinal run in the UEFA Champions League that followed on their surprise Premier League Championship in 2016. Newcastle United, on the other hand, lost over $53M during the same year, which was directly attributable to a season spent in The Championship after being relegated after the same 2016 season.
Luckily, Newcastle United only spent one season in the Championship, and they have spent more seasons in the Premier League than all but six teams (a list that includes fellow quarter-finalist Everton). In fact, Newcastle United has spent 87 seasons in the top tier of English football (70% of their existence), while Leicester City has only spent 50 seasons at the same level (38%). Including this season, there have been 27 Premiere League seasons; Newcastle United has participated in 24 of those seasons, with an average finish of about 10th place. Leicester City has spent only 13 seasons in the Premier League, though they do have that 2016 title, whereas Newcastle United won their last (of four) title at the top level in English football in 1927.
Newcastle United has won numerous titles, though the majority of them were very long ago. As previously mentioned, the last of their four titles in the first division was in 1927. The other three were in 1905, 1907, and 1909. In the Premier League era (since the 1992-1993 season), the three seasons that Newcastle United spent in what is now the Championship – 1992-93, 2009-10, and 2016-17 – ended with 1st place finishes. In addition to another league championship in tier 2 – in 1965 – they are also the proud winner of six FA Cups, though none since 1955. Newcastle has never dropped below the second tier in their 125 years of professional football.
Leicester City, on the other hand, has that 2016 Premier League title in the first tier, seven titles at tier 2 (the last in 2014 prior to their last promotion), a 2009 title in the third tier, and four old FA Cup runner-up finishes. That 2008-2009 season spent in the third tier was Leicester City’s only stop below the second tier, and they wasted no time returning to the Championship. They also have the aforementioned quarterfinal run in the 2016 UEFA Champions League, which is deeper than Newcastle United has ever gone in that illustrious tournament.
Both teams are outside of London, which can help make them the hottest ticket around. Newcastle has the second largest stadium of my eight finalists, and is the seventh largest football stadium in England. It was also first opened in 1892, which is very cool in its own way. If English football stadiums were like their American counterparts, we’d be on the fourth version of St. James’ Park instead of having one with nearly 130 years of history. Conversely, Leicester City plays in a younger (opened in 2002) and smaller stadium, which itself had replaced the 111-year old Filbert Street. While I ranked the clubs’ inversely based on stadium size, I think the history of St. James’ Park gives Newcastle United the edge here.
Finally, both clubs have a recent history of spending money on players to remain competitive in the top tier of English football. Since the 2013-2014 season, Leicester City has a net expenditure on players of $146.3M, for an average of nearly $25M. Newcastle United is not far behind, with a total of $116.7M and an average of just under $19.5M. Both have been relatively quiet this offseason, with both teams actually making money on player transfers so far. Whether or not this continues is anyone’s guess, but both teams could feel secure in a mid-table finish and don’t see the need to spend on players right now.
There is a bit of tumult in the ownership of Newcastle United, which may be delaying any major player actions. Mike Ashley has owned the club outright since 2007, and has announced plans to sell on at least three different occasions, only to have difficulty finding a buyer. The last such instance was October 2017, with Ashley “hoping to conclude a deal by Christmas.” That deal never materialized, and Ashley seems poised to continue his tumultuous ownership, much to the chagrin of some club supporters.
Despite the disparate seeding of these two clubs, they are actually much closer than I imagined. The history of top league presence by Newcastle United can’t be ignored, but neither can their precarious financial situation. They lost £120M more that Leicester City did in the last reported period, which probably didn’t help when Ashley tried to sell the club late last year.
Regardless of Newcastle United’s history and the allure of St. James’ Park on an aesthetic level, the best option for my fandom in this match up will be the Foxes of Leicester City. They seem closer to competing for a top six spot in the league, as well as sustaining that performance going forward. Nevertheless, I still plan on following all the developments with the Ashley saga and hope that the Magpies’ followers can finally get a respite from Ashley’s unsteady hand.
Next up will be the final quarterfinal between 4-seed Everton and 5-seed Crystal Palace. Then we will reveal the matchups for the semi-final that starts next week!
Until next time…