Are these most open EFL League Two playoffs ever?

On Tuesday, Walsall comfortably defeated Morecambe 3-0 at the Poundland Bescot Stadium to place them them 16th in the league, on 45 points.

The Saddlers are seven places above the relegation zone and an even further nine places from the promotion playoffs. However, the points difference tells an entirely different story.

Walsall now possess a massive 22-point advantage over Forest Green Rovers in the relegation zone. The gap is wide enough to ease any worries of relegation out of the Football League.

The West Midlands club’s status in League Two is virtually guaranteed for next season, but they may now have their eyes set on a different prize.

Despite a shocking 9-2 defeat to Nigel Clough’s Mansfield Town last week, Harrogate Town currently hold onto the lowest playoff berth in 7th place.

There may be nine league places separating Harrogate and Walsall ahead of their weekend clash at the EnviroVent Stadium, but a win for the visitors would draw them level with the Sulphurites on 48 points.

Never have we seen such an open playoff picture in EFL League Two history.

As of the time of writing (Wednesday, February 21, 2024), there are more teams within three points of the playoffs than on this date in any of the previous 19 seasons.

The number almost doubles the previous record of five, which was first recorded in the league’s debut season in 2004/05, and equaled twice in back-to-back seasons in 2015/16 and 2016/17.

League Two certainly looks to be the most open of all the divisions of the English Football League. In the Championship, two teams, Coventry City and Norwich City, are within three points of the playoffs. In League one there are even less, with only Stevenage a win away from Peterborough United in 6th place.

With only around 13 or 14 matches remaining for the majority of teams in the league, an unprecedented 16 teams have reasonable hopes of promotion- accounting for two thirds of the entire division.

The 16 promotion hopefuls make for an eclectic mix of teams. Current 1st and 2nd placed teams, Stockport County and Mansfield respectively, are yet to play in League One since it rebranded from Division Two.

Barrow, Harrogate Town, and Newport County make up the rest of the top 16 teams to also have never played a League One fixture.

The Exiles, alongside Mansfield, are the longest serving team in League Two, with this season being the 11thconsecutive one spent in the division.

Fellow Welsh side Wrexham are one of five teams to have newly entered the division this season with hopes of a swift exit in the form of a double promotion alongside Notts County. The Red Dragons last played third-tier football 20 years ago.

The rest of the new entrants, MK Dons, Morecambe, and Accrington Stanley, are looking to bounce back into League One after relegation last term. The Dons position looks the strongest of the three so far, they are a comfortable five points inside the playoffs in 5th place.

With so many teams having something to play for in the final stretch, League Two is the league to watch for the rest of the season.