With the prize of promotion to the Premier League worth £ 135 million, it’s no wonder that winning the championship play-offs is seen as a golden ticket.
Later this month, Brentford, Swansea, Bournemouth and Barnsley will battle it out to join Norwich and Watford in the top flight.
Sportsmail assess their strengths and weaknesses …
Last time in the top division: 1946-1947
FormBrentford is at full speed – Saturday’s 2-0 home win at Watford was their third straight win and they are unbeaten in 11 games.
Their total of 84 points (with one game remaining) would have been enough for promotion last season.
The Bees are also desperate to be fined for a painful extension of Fulham in last year’s play-off final.
Strengths: The ability to score goals and numerous goals. Brentford are the championship’s highest scorers and can take their breath away in their day with smooth, offensive football.
Thomas Frank’s side are the top scorers in the championship and are once again a real force
They can boast of the league’s main goalscorer in Ivan Toney, who hit his 30th of the season against Watford, as well as creative dynamos Sergi Canos and Bryan Mbeumo.
Thomas Frank’s team also benefited from the experience and motivation of their playoff heartbreak from last season.
Weak points: They have lost too many chances and draws when they should have won comfortably. Between mid-March and mid-April, they played six of the seven games, meaning they couldn’t catch Norwich and Watford.
They are vulnerable in the back and switch off at key moments, or get themselves into trouble by going out at the goalkeeper.
Key man: It must be Toney. The striker, who took £ 5m from Peterborough last summer, more than offset the sale of Ollie Watkins to Aston Villa.
With 30 goals and 10 assists to date, he will somehow be a Premier League player for sure.
Ivan Toney is the championship’s top scorer and is the man every side would want at this stage
Last time in the top division: 2017-18
Form: Patchy in recent weeks when their hopes for automatic promotion faded.
In late March and early April, lost four games without scoring, taking the pressure off the top two.
They haven’t been overly convincing in recent weeks, but came from behind to beat Derby 2-1 on Saturday to gain some momentum.
Strengths: Steve Cooper’s squad has a nice balance between experienced heads and youthful energy.
Steve Cooper’s side saw their shape become patchy as hopes of an automatic place faded quickly
They rarely hit huge scores, but don’t leak too many goals and have shown consistency for most of the season.
Offensive threats Andre Ayew and Jamal Lowe can give any defense a headache.
Weak points: Swansea hope they haven’t peaked. They limp into the playoffs and have to dig deep to find a shape.
Admitting late goals has become an issue, with Cooper admitting how happy he was to see them win over Derby. They must remain on until the final whistle.
Key man: There is relief that Ayew has overcome his hamstring injury. With 16 goals, the Ghanaian gives the attacker a sharper lead and their chances of moving up the ladder improve enormously with him.
Andre Ayew has overcome his injury to be fit at the right time as he nurtures Swansea’s hopes
Last time in the top division: 2019-20
FormA run of six consecutive wins in April sealed the Bournemouth playoffs and kept hopes of an immediate return to the Premier League alive. But successive defeats have limited their momentum. Fourteen days ago they lost 1-0 to Brentford despite 40 minutes a man advantage and Saturday 1-0 at Wycombe.
Strengths: An abundance of attacking talent that can quickly take the game away from any opponent if something clicks. Arnaut Danjuma, Dominic Solanke and Junior Stanislas are all in double digits in the score tables and their speed and incision on the counterattack are causing problems.
Weak points: Sensitive to off-days in which nothing gels and they do not create many opportunities despite their creative talents. They faced some frustrating goals from set pieces and headers, including in their home defeat to Barnsley in March.
Key man: Danjuma impressed during the second half of the season with 15 goals and seven assists. The Dutch winger is fast, skilled and blessed with the ability to make something happen out of nowhere.
Back-to-back defeats controlled Bournemouth’s hopes of promotion and grounded out
Last time in the top division: 1997-98
Form: The team that no one expected to be in the playoffs! The turnaround in their fortunes since Valerien Ismael replaced Gerhard Struber as manager in October has been astonishing, despite Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Preston.
Strengths: Direct, ruthless and robust. Their long touch on the ball and hard pressing has not made them friends, but has proved effective as many teams have forgotten how to handle it. Moreover, there is no weight to expectation.
Weak pointsThey can’t compete with some of their potential playoff opponents as an offensive force that could end up costing them, but their goals are scattered across the team. While the team collective has no doubts, Barnsley lacks someone who can provide that X factor to inspire them to victory in the crunch games.
Key manSkipper Alex Mowatt has been outstanding this season, not only for his leadership and drive from midfield, but also for his ability to get into scoring positions. Eight goals and seven assists in the championship have earned his team valuable points. The 26-year-old will be out of contract in June and there will no doubt be a lot of interest.
Valerien Ismael transformed Barnsley after taking over from Gerhard Struber in October