Ashley Young was among Watford's scorers in the semi final first leg.
Watford finished the 2005–06 Football League Championship in third place with 81 points, two places and 3 points above Leeds. In the play-off semi finals, Watford faced London side Crystal Palace, who had finished in sixth position. The first leg was held at Crystal Palace's ground, Selhurst Park, on 6 May 2006. Goals from Watford players Marlon King, Ashley Young and Matthew Spring gave them a 3–0 win. The second leg at Watford's Vicarage Road stadium finished 0–0, thus giving Watford a 3–0 aggregate victory and a place in the final.
Leeds' semi final opponents were Preston, who had finished the Championship season in fourth position. Leeds hosted the first leg, but it was Preston who took the lead with a goal from David Nugent in the 48th minute. Eddie Lewis equalised for Leeds in the 74th minute to salvage a 1–1 draw. In the second leg, at Preston's home Deepdale, Rob Hulse and Frazer Richardson scored for Leeds, handing them a 2–0 win on the day and a 3–1 aggregate victory.