Fulham is one game away from returning to the English Premier League after the historic London club outlasted fellow second-tier side Cardiff City over two legs Thursday, advancing on aggregate 3-2.
The Cottagers will now take on west London rival Brentford Tuesday at Wembley Stadium in the English Championship final, with a place in the big-money Prem on the line. The annual match has been called the most lucrative in international soccer, with media rights for the world’s most popular sports circuit worth more than $100 million to each of England’s 20 top-flight clubs.
Fulham has spent most of the 21st century in the Premier League, but served five of its last six seasons in the grueling Championship division, widely regarded as the toughest second-tier league in the global game. The humble club — which operates in a city that boats European titans Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham and has a long history of fielding players from the United States — returned to the Prem for the 2018-19 campaign but were relegated again at the end of that season.
Veteran American central defender Tim Ream played the full 90 minutes in both semifinal matches against Cardiff. Fulham won the first leg of the two-game, total goals series 2-0 in the Welsh capital before being beaten 2-1 at home on Thursday. Ream, who joined Fulham in 2015, previously played in the Premier League with Bolton Wanderers.
Before Ream, U.S. men’s World Cup players Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey, Marcus Hahnemann, Kasey Keller, Eddie Johnson, Eddie Lewis and Brian McBride also called Craven Cottage home.
Dempsey and McBride remain bona fide club icons; Dempsey led the club in scoring in 2007-08 and again from 2010-12 and took the Cottagers to the 2010 UEFA Cup (now Europa League) final. McBride, who scored a crucial goal to keep Fulham in the Prem two years earlier and is now the USMNT’s general manager, has a bar named in his honor inside the 300-year old stadium that sits on the banks of the river Thames.