Odds of cracking the EPL's top four

Making the Champions League is nearly impossibe if you didn't do it the year before

Updated: August 11, 2011, 10:29 AM ET
By Voros McCracken | ESPN Insider
 Wayne RooneyMatthew Peters/Man Utd/Getty ImagesHistory says Wayne Rooney and Manchester United are a lock for another top-four finish.

Every young English boy grows up dreaming that one day he will play in the Premiership and lead his favorite club to their ultimate goal: fourth place.

Okay, that's a little snarky, but the importance of Champions League football both financially to the club and to the supporters that follow the club cannot be overstated. Every club wants to win the Premiership, but many strive to finish in the top four just as much.

Failing to make the Champions League in the two seasons from 2000-2002 caused a series of cascading financial problems that caused one time "big club" Leeds United to plummet all the way to the third tier of English football. You simply can't be a "big-money club" in Europe without consistent Champions League football.