Soccer Leagues Explained for Dummies

Soccer leagues are the heart of soccer. They have been one of the major reasons behind the world wide success of the game. If you know nothing about soccer leagues, you’ve come to the right place.

Soccer leagues are competitions held between different professional soccer clubs. These soccer leagues are held either locally between a country’s soccer clubs or internationally between soccer clubs from multiple countries.

But let’s dive into more details on how these leagues work, how can teams qualify to be part of the main soccer leagues, and what are the top soccer leagues of our time.

Note that there are many different types of soccer leagues around the world.

There are leagues held between the local teams of a specific country. For example, The La Liga soccer league is a soccer competition held between high profile Spanish soccer clubs.

There are also other leagues that bring the top soccer clubs from different countries and put them all together in one competition. The best example of such a league is the Champions league.

Bun when I mention ‘soccer league’ in this article, I will be referring to the local leagues that occur between a country’s soccer teams. This article will only talk about these leagues.

Why do soccer leagues exist?

Each soccer club has to belong to a country the same way a company has to be registered in a country. With that said, there are many countries around the world with a lot of soccer clubs founded inside them.

This allows these countries to hold competitions between their soccer teams for entertainment and for revenue. These competitions are known as the soccer leagues.

How does a soccer league work?

Please note that there are a lot of soccer leagues around the world, and each might have their own modifications to fit the requirements of their country. The following is the most common way that is used around the world to hold a soccer league competition:

A soccer league takes place once a year. The time of the year in which the competitions occur is called the soccer season.

The clubs that participate in the league have to compete against each other throughout the season and only one is crowned the victor at the end of each season.

Each soccer team has to play 2 matches against each of the other clubs that are participating in the competition.

With that said, the soccer season is usually divided into two parts. The first part contains the first matches between each of the soccer clubs, and the second part contains the second matches between the clubs.

The main reason why there are 2 matches between each of the clubs in the same season is because each of these clubs have their own soccer stadium.

With that said, it’s fair to allow 2 matches between the same soccer clubs in the same season. One match will take place at one of the club’s stadiums, and the other match will take place at the other club’s stadium.

If team A plays a match in their own stadium, it’s called a home match for team A. It’s called an Away match if team A is playing on the opponent’s stadium.

Learn more about 2 legged soccer matches in this article.

Alright, enough introducing terms, let’s get to the important part.

How is the winner of a soccer league decided?

Soccer leagues are points based. This means that the team who has collected the most points throughout the season wins the competition.

Let’s say that there’s a soccer match between team A and team B

  • If team A wins, then team A gets 3 points while team B gets nothing.
  • If the game ends with a draw, then each team gets 1 point.

That’s it. During a soccer league season, soccer teams compete with each other and the team that collects the most points is announced as the winner.

For example, here’s the Premier League’s table of the 2019/2020 season.

As you can tell from the table, the winner of the 2019/2020 season of the Premier League (One of the best soccer leagues in the world) was Liverpool with 99 points collected. Manchester City came in second, and so on.

The clubs in the league table are sorted from the most points collected to the least points collected during the soccer season.

What happens if the top clubs have the same number of points?

If more than 1 team finish with the same number of points on top, then the winner is the team that has a higher goal difference.

Goal difference is the number of goals scored minus the number of goals conceded.

If both teams have equal goal differences too, then different leagues will use different methods to announce the winner.

For example, some leagues decide that the team who won against the other team during the league is announced winner. Other leagues determine the winner by checking which team scored more goals during the league.

If none of these work, then the 2 teams will play a one last match on a neutral ground(on a soccer field that doesn’t belong to any of the competing teams). The winner of the match is announced as the winner of the league.

How many teams does each league contain?

As you can tell from the league table above, the Premier League has 20 soccer clubs competing against each other each season. This is a very standard number and is used across the main soccer leagues around the world.

However, not all leagues contain 20 competing teams. Some contain less than that. There are soccer leagues containing only 12 clubs.

The reasons behind the number of soccer leagues of a country are a little bit obvious. As mentioned before, the main reason behind soccer leagues is revenue and entertainment.

If there aren’t a lot of good soccer clubs in a country, then this country may decide to drop down the number of clubs that can compete in the main league to make sure that only the good teams are allowed to compete and that keeps the league more interesting to people.

If a league contains a lot of clubs that have terrible performances, then most of the league’s games will be boring and that will hurt the revenues of soccer in that country, which is something nobody wants.

But as mentioned earlier, the standard number of soccer clubs competing in a major soccer league is 20.

How are teams qualified to participate in their country’s soccer league?

If only 20 or less soccer clubs are allowed to compete in the main league of a country, then how are these clubs picked?

The process is very simple. Let’s take Spain as an example to understand things much easier. The main soccer league in Spain is called La Liga. It is one of the best soccer leagues around the world.

But, La Liga isn’t the only league that exists inside Spain. There are many others. The Second most important league in Spain is called the Segunda Division (Second Division). La Liga is the first division.

By the end of each La Liga season, the 3 clubs that have the least number of points are dropped to the second division league. 

For example, these are the 3 clubs that had the least amount of points in the La Liga 2019/2020 season and they’ll have to compete in the second division league in the following season.

3 clubs from the second division league are promoted to La Liga. But how are these clubs chosen? It’s also very simple.

The clubs who finished first and second in the ‘second division’ league are promoted to La Liga. The 3rd to 6th have to compete against each other and the winner will be the 3rd team to be promoted to La Liga.

The process of choosing the clubs who could compete in the Second division league are similar. So I won’t dive into these. But you get the point. 

As you can tell, a new soccer club will have to win many minor leagues in their country in order to be able to reach the main league, and that might take them years to achieve.

We have only mentioned Spain here as an example, but the same thing applies for most of the other major soccer leagues. There are always slight variations to the process in different countries, but the core method to decide what teams play in the main league is usually the same

What are the financial benefits for teams playing in their country’s first league?

There are huge financial gains for the teams that make it to the main League of their country. The most important gain is that they’ll have a lot of exposure and many people will get to know the team.

Here’s a list of how clubs can make money when they compete in their country’s main league.

1- Sponsorships

Whenever you watch a soccer match, you’ll notice that a name of a company is written on each of the club’s jerseys. These are the names of the companies that are sponsoring the club.

Usually when a club reaches the major soccer league in their country, they get a sponsor because they’ll get a lot of exposure. Companies are willing to pay a lot of money to have their names on soccer club’s jerseys.

2- TV contracts

TV stations all around the world are willing to pay tons of money to be able to air some of the top soccer leagues in the world.

Let’s get back to La Liga again as an example. In this article, La Liga discusses the revenues gained from audiovisual rights for a few seasons. As you can tell, they’re making billions of dollars out of their main league.

The clubs that are participating in La Liga will get part of this money, which can be a great stream of income for these clubs.

3- Ticket sales

10s of thousands of people attend soccer stadiums in each match in the major soccer leagues. That’s a lot of ticket sales. The club will gain most of the ticket sales for matches they play in their own stadiums.

4- Merchandise

Clubs participating in major soccer leagues sell a lot of merchandise because of the amount of the exposure that they get world wide.

For example, a French team named Paris Saint-Germain sold 10,000 shirts IN A SINGLE DAY after signing a world class soccer player called Neymar. That’s more than $1M of shirts sold in a single day.

There are many other ways a soccer club can earn money, but I’ll keep these to a more detailed article about clubs revenue later.

Now you know what a soccer league is, and how it works. It’s time to introduce you to some of the best soccer leagues of your generation.

Here’s a list of the major soccer leagues in no particular order

1- Premier League

The premier league is England’s main league, and it is arguably the best soccer league in the world. It has some of the best soccer teams, best soccer players, best soccer managers and much more.

Some of the teams that play in this league are Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United and others.

2- La Liga

La Liga has already been mentioned in this article. It’s Spain’s soccer league and it’s one of the best soccer leagues in the world. It contains two of the greatest soccer clubs of all time, they are FC Barcelona, and Real Madrid FC.

3- Serie A

Italy’s main soccer league is Serie A. It is one of the best soccer leagues in Europe, and it has great soccer teams like Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan, AC Roma and others.

4- Bundesliga

The Bundesliga is Germany’s top soccer league. Germany has some of the best players in the world. FC Bayern Munich is one of the top soccer clubs in Germany and in the whole world too.

5- France Ligue 1

Can you guess to which country does the France Ligue 1 belong to? France Ligue 1 has improved a lot over the past few years and it’s becoming more and more competitive over time. One of the league’s top performing soccer clubs is Paris Saint-Germain.

6- Champions league

Although the champions league isn’t a league related to only one country, I have to include it when it comes to listing the top soccer leagues in the world.

There is no doubt that the Champions League is the top soccer clubs competition in the soccer world. It is also one of the best sports leagues in the whole sports world too.

That’s it for this article. Thank you for reading this far and have a nice time.