Leicester City: Explaining Soccer's Cinderella Story

Jamie Vardy of Leicester City celebrates as he scores their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Leicester City at the Stadium of Light on April 10, 2016 in Sunderland, England. Credit: Michael Regan / Getty Images

This Sunday, Leicester City will face off against Manchester United in one of the final weeks of the Premier League season. If they win this game, Leicester City will also take the Premier League championship, a feat that almost no one saw coming at the beginning of the season. A year ago, this team was fighting to keep its place in the Premier League; now, they’re on the verge of winning it.

Why Does This Matter?
The Premier League represents the top level of English soccer. It has existed in its current form since 1992. Since then, four teams have dominated the league: there has been all of one year (the 1994–95 season) that the title was not won by Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, or Chelsea. Even if your knowledge of soccer comes from watching the World Cup every four years, you can probably name someone who plays for at least one of these four teams. Leicester City stars Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez aren’t quite household names–at least, not yet.

Who Are Leicester City?
The club has existed in one form or another since 1884. They were a dominant team in the 1960s, but spent much of the last decade in the second division of English soccer. There are plenty of other teams that have had long and storied histories who have fallen on hard times — Leeds United comes to mind. But Leicester City’s 2015–16 season represents a stunning comeback — both in terms of the team’s ability to stay up in the Premier League and for the run at the title that they’re currently making.

Also, their nickname is “The Foxes,” which is pretty great.

Could Things Still Go Wrong?
Nothing is guaranteed — but even if they don’t end up on top of the league, the story of Leicester City’s season is still a phenomenal one. Leicester City will be playing in the 2016–17 UEFA Champions League, along with a host of other top teams from European club leagues. There’s still a slim chance that Tottenham Hotspur, the only team in the Premier League who have not been mathematically eliminated, could end up on top of the league, but a Leicester win in any of their remaining games will clinch things. (Full disclosure: I am a Tottenham supporter and am holding out hope for the unlikely. And if Tottenham does win it, it’ll be their first time at the top of English soccer since 1961 — nothing to sneeze at either.)

Are There Any Other Variables for Sunday’s Game?
Leicester City will be without their leading goal scorer, Jamie Vardy, who is suspended for the game. However, Vardy was also suspended for Leicester City’s game last Sunday against Swansea City. Even without him present, they managed to win 4-0. It’s one more way in which this team has defied expectations this season.