There’s no doubt that soccer has a lot of leagues, anyone who’s been paying attention to soccer can see that. But what many people don’t know is why that’s the case. That’s where we come in.
Soccer is played and enjoyed all over the world. Every country, excluding a few, has its own set of leagues that are ranked on a professional soccer tier. Not only are people all over the world interested to play soccer, but to watch and spend money to support their favorite team.
Keep reading to learn more about the many different soccer leagues and why there are so many!
Why are there so many soccer leagues?
Soccer has so many leagues because it is the most popular sport around the world. American football, on the other hand, is just that: an American sport, so there are only a few American football leagues.
Soccer is a sport that is played all over the world, and there are multiple leagues in each country, hence why there are so many leagues. Each league fits somewhere on the tier, with the most prestigious and famous league sitting at the top. These top-tier leagues for each country are the leagues most soccer fans watch and talk about or will pay to go see.
For example, the Premier League is the most popular soccer league in England, and other leagues in England fit below this one on the tier. The Premier League is referred to as a domestic league, of which every country has at least one.
A domestic league is a group of soccer teams within one country that play a scheduled set of games against all the other teams in their league each year. The teams in that league will play games that are both at home and away at the other team’s home-field stadiu
ms. These annual professional games keep the sport afloat in those countries because they keep people talking about them, and it hasn’t failed since the sport began to be part of one of the biggest sporting events: the World Cup, in 1930.
The historical spread of soccer shows why it’s so widespread
To better understand why soccer has so many leagues all over the world is to take into consideration the history of soccer. The presence of domestic leagues in each country was formed through the spread of soccer from its origins in England in the 1840s until it spread in popularity via word of mouth and colonization to become known all over the world.
Eventually, world tournaments like the World Cup and the fact of teams recruiting players from outside their country to come to play for their team have furthered that spread and the knowledge of the sport.
Within the first few years that soccer was played professionally where it began in England, the Football Association Challenge Cup, which is commonly known as the FA Cup, was established in 1871 and sparked the global spread of the sport.
In the 19th century, British traders, workers, and sailors carried the sport all over the world, introducing it to those they met along their journeys. The Football League First Division was later established in 1888, which has evolved into the Premier League, as it’s known as today. This rapid spread of the sport later lead to the formation of FIFA within just a few years, which organized the world’s first World Championship of soccer, which is now known as the World Cup.
We all know the World Cup as it is today; the world’s most popular sporting event. The first World Cup was played in 1930. After the organization of the World Cup, the sport of soccer spread through the British isles, then throughout Continental Europe, and eventually around the entire world; to the Americas, Asia, and Oceania.
This is all because those British expatriates, seamen, and traders, plus study abroad students who lived in England brought the sport around the world and taught it to those outside of England until it grew in popularity in those countries as well.
European association football (soccer) leagues
England, as part of Europe, is where association football began, which is why it has become so popular all over Europe. Some of the most famous soccer leagues in the world are in Europe: England, Spain, and Italy, which are homes to famous leagues like the Premier League and UEFA Champions League.
Some other leagues include the English Football League, German Bundesliga, Italian Serie A, Spanish Liga, French Ligue 1, Dutch First Division, European League of Football, Portuguese First Division, European Super League, and more.
These are just to name a few that are very popular in continental Europe, with many of these leagues representing different countries. Beneath each of these leagues are a set of various different soccer clubs and teams that play for those leagues and compete against each other. If a country doesn’t have just one league, it has more than one.
Soccer leagues in the United States
The United States as a country has its own set of soccer leagues that serve the entire United States. There are dozens of these leagues, which are organized into divisions and ranked into a tier sanctioned by the US Soccer Federation.
Each league has a number of clubs that play in that league and compete against each other. The tier for Men’s professional soccer leagues in the United States is outlined below:
|Division||Professional US League||Number of Clubs|
|1||Major League Soccer||29|
|2||United Soccer League Championship||24|
|3||Major League Soccer Next Pro||28|
|3||National Independent Soccer Association||8|
|3||United Soccer League (USL) League One||12|
When it comes to professional women’s soccer in the United States, there are many leagues that are still waiting on sanctioning from the United States Soccer Federation and some planned clubs are yet to be announced. These are the second and third divisions of women’s professional soccer.
The first division, which has already been both sanctioned and planned out, is the National Women’s Soccer League, also known as NWSL, which currently has 12 clubs total.
South American soccer leagues
Soccer is also a popular sport in South America. The administrator for association football in South America is called the American Football Confederation, often referred to as CONMEBOL, which encompasses all the leagues in the continent. Here are some of the most popular and top-tier football leagues in each South American Country (Note that some countries share the same soccer league):
- Argentina: Primera Division
- Bolivia: Bolivian Primera Division
- Brazil: Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A
- Chile: Primera Division
- Columbia: Primera A
- Ecuador: Serie A
- Paraguay: Primera Division
- Peru: Liga 1
- Uruguay: Primera Division
- Venezuela: Primera Division
African soccer leagues
Africa is another continent where soccer is popular. Some of the most popular and prestigious leagues in Africa include:
- The Egyptian Premier League in Egypt
- Morocco Botolo Pro in Morocco
- Tunisia Ligue Professionnelle 1 in Tunisia
- Algeria Ligue Professionelle 1 in Algeria
- South Africa Premier Soccer League in South Africa
- DR Congo Linafoot in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Angola Girabola in Angola
- Sudan Premier League in Sudan
- Guinea Ligue 1 Pro in Gunea
- Tanzania Ligi Kuu Bara in Tanzania
- Libyan Premier League in Libya
- & more!
Soccer leagues in Asia
Asia is certainly not unfamiliar with soccer, and has some of the largest following of soccer in the world. The governing body of soccer in Asia and parts of Oceania is the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). In fact, Australia recently left the Oceania Football Confederation to join AFC. Here are some countries, divisions, and cities included in the AFC and their top-level league(s):
- Afghanistan: Afghan Premier League
- Australia: A-League (men), W-League (women)
- Bahrain: Bahraini Premier League
- Bangladesh: Bangladesh Premier League
- Bhutan: Bhutan Premier League
- Brunei Darussalam: Brunei Super League
- Cambodia: Cambodian Premier League
- China People Republic: Chinese Super League
- Chinese Taipei: Taiwan Football Premier League
- Democratic People Republic of Korea: DPR Korea Premier Football League
- Guam: Guam Soccer League
- Hong Kong: Hong Kong Premier League
- India: Indian Super League, Indian Women’s League
- Indonesia: Liga 1 (men), Liga 1 Putri (women)
- Iraq: Iraqi Premier League
- Islamic Republic of Iran: Persian Gulf Pro League
- Japan: J1 League (men), WE League (women)
- Jordan: Jordanian Pro League
- Korea Republic: K League 1
- Kuwait: Kuwait Premier League
- Kyrgyz Republic: Kyrgyz Premier League
- Laos: Lao Premier League
- Lebanon: Labanese Premier League
- & more!