Most popular football leagues in the world
Football is one of the most universally watched sports in the world. Therefore, it is quite understandable why there are numerous leagues dedicated to this sport. The first account of organized football originated in England as early as 1839.
Football as the most followed sport in the world generates excitement and heightens emotions, especially international tournaments. During periods when the international football scene no longer features any action, fans turn to soccer leagues in various countries.
Football leagues are most popular throughout the world as the best players in the world play together in a way they can't at the international level.
In recent years, several leagues, especially in Europe, have gained much audience and attention from both fans and the media.
These leagues, which feature the best players and soccer clubs in the world, have generated so much buzz that pundits have had a hard time deciding which of these leagues are the best football leagues in the world.
Read on to find out more about the most popular football leagues in the world:
Our ranking of the most popular football leagues in the world is based on the success of clubs from these leagues in various tournaments and the presence of top players as well as social media buzz generated from league games.
The Premier League
The English Premier League (EPL) enjoys the astonishing global reach; however, so many believe that Germany's Bundesliga is undoubtedly more prestigious, while La Liga has a storied history with a far greater number of world-class footballers gracing the league over the last decade.
Despite this, neither of these leagues even comes close to the global influence and popularity that is currently enjoyed by the English Premier League.
It is by far the most watched soccer league in the world; an estimated 643 million households in 212 territories tuned into the 2018-19 season.
It is broadcasted across the globe in more than 200 countries and reaches over 4 billion people. The Premier League has boasted players like David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Paul Pogba, Didier Drogba, and Harry Kane.
The Premier League, founded in Britain in 1992, is presently one of the most popular football leagues in the world.
The Premier League is a powerhouse in British football and globally recognizable by its Lion Head logo. It is the most entertaining league in world football and second most attended league in Europe but far surpasses other leagues with its viewership and global attendance.
The English Premier League is made up of 20 teams and is the most followed football league in the world, it’s also the biggest football league by revenue but well behind the American sports leagues.
The league houses some of the richest football clubs in the world too, these clubs like Manchester United, Man City, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool have been dominated the league since it began in 1992.
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Since 1992 there have only been a total of 6 different Premier League winners. Manchester United have dominated the league by winning an incredible 13 Premier League trophies.
Liverpool is now undoubtedly England's greatest ever club. The current Liverpool squad with Salah and Van Dijk at the helm have broken many club records, making history along the way by setting new EPL records.
After 30 years, Liverpool were finally crowned English champions with a massive 23 point gap at the top. They are the current UEFA, Super Cup, and World Club Cup champions. Liverpool is the fastest team to win 30 back to back premier league matches in 34 games.
Liverpool also hold the record for beating 14 teams both home and away in a single season. They also hold the record for highest points in a season and still not win the league title (97 points to be exact).
These are the reasons why the English Premier League dominates global football. As things currently stand, there is little chance that the EPL's position will be threatened anytime soon.
La Liga (Campeonato Nacional de Liga de Primera División) is the name of the Spanish football league and has existed since 1929. The first division is called Primera División (which is commonly referred to La Liga). Since 1997, 20 clubs have participated in the top league of La Liga.
Spain is known for its phenomenal football players; some of the best in the world have been born to Spanish speaking countries and played for Spanish clubs.
La Liga is the Spanish domestic football league to boast some of the most well-known football clubs in the entire world. With its attendance second only to The Premier League, La Liga is also unstoppable.
In 2018, the league had over 76 million viewers per game. La Liga is one of the most watched football leagues in the world for its phenomenal football and award-winning footballers. It is the second most popular football league in the world.
The Spanish league may not be as popular as the English Premier League but it’s still a giant and 2 of the world richest football clubs, Real Madrid and Barcelona play in it, these Spanish giants are two of the biggest team rivalries in sport.
La Liga is the second biggest football league in both following and revenue. There are 20 teams in La Liga and for years they had the two best football players to thank for it’s massive success.
The two legends are the most followed athletes on the planet and their relative clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona are the most followed team on social media globally.
The league's all-time leading goalscorer is Lionel Messi who has (in May 2020) made 438 goals in Barcelona. Messi is also the only player to score 50 times during one season (it should be noticed that the numbers of games per season has shifted over times; as a comparison Telmo Zarra scored 38 times in the 1950-51 season when each team only played 30 games).
On the second place among goalscorers is Cristiano Ronaldo who did 311 goals in Real Madrid on 292 appearances (a goal ratio record in the league).
Other notable goalscorers in the league are Hugo Sánches (234 goals for Real Madrid 1981-1994), Raúl (228 goals for Real Madrid 1994-2010), and Alfredo Di Stéfano (227 goals for Real Madrid 1953-1966).
Real Madrid and Barcelona has dominated Spanish club football from early on. Between the first season in 1929 to season 2016-2019, they won 60 of the 89 possible trophies together.
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The Bundesliga, sometimes referred to as the Fußball-Bundesliga or 1. Bundesliga, is a professional association football league in Germany. It is among the most popular football leagues in the world. At the top of the German football league system, the Bundesliga is Germany's primary football competition.
The Bundesliga comprises 18 teams and operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the 2. Bundesliga. Seasons run from August to May and teams play each other both home and away to fulfill a total of 34 games.
All of the Bundesliga clubs qualify for the DFB-Pokal. The winner of the Bundesliga qualifies for the DFL-Supercup.
The German domestic league, Bundesliga, is one of the toughest leagues in the world. The league, founded in the early 1960s, now has over 50 clubs playing in it. It is annually one of the most successful leagues as far as attendance goes, and its clubs have international acclaim at many tournaments.
German football league just announced that the 18 clubs’ total revenue of just over 4 billion euros ($4.33 billion), making it number 3 in terms of revenue.
The Bundesliga has had a long history, with the most successful club, Bayern Munich, entertaining fans since 1860. Teams like Borussia Dortmund, Schalke 04, Bayer Leverkusen, and Borussia Monchengladbach have also attracted many fans, both at home and from other countries around the world.
With around 40,000 tickets sold per game in the top division, Bundesliga is among the most-attended and most watched football leagues in the world.
Gerd Müller did 365 goals in 427 Bundesliga matches, a record that will be hard to beat and Charly Körbel has the record in league appearances with 602 matches for Eintracht Frankfurt.
Among the most popular soccer leagues in the world is Serie A, also called Serie A TIM due to sponsorship by TIM, which is a professional league competition for football clubs located at the top of the Italian football league system and the winner is awarded the Scudetto and the Coppa Campioni d'Italia.
Serie A (Lega Nazionale Professionisti Serie A) is the name of the top Italian football league and has existed since 1898 and since 1929 as structured today.
Since 1961, the winner gets the trophy called Coppa Campioni d'Italia. When the league was established it included 18 clubs, but since when it has decreased and expanded many times: from 16 as minimum to 21 clubs as maximum (since the 2004-2005 season, 20 clubs has been included). Today the division is also referred to Lega Serie A, or more commonly only Serie A.
It has been operating as a round-robin tournament for over ninety years since the 1929–30 season. It had been organized by the Direttorio Divisioni Superiori until 1943 and the Lega Calcio until 2010, when the Lega Serie A was created for the 2010–11 season.
Serie A is regarded as one of the most popular football leagues in the world and it is often depicted as the most tactical and defensively sound national league.
Serie A was initiated in 1929-30. From 1898 to 1929, Italian soccer was played in regional groups. "Calcio Italiano" means soccer in Italian. "Scudetto" means small shield.
The Serie A Championship title is referred to as the Scudetto because the winning team will wear a small coat of arms with the Italian flag on their jersey in the following season.
The most successful league club is Juventus F.C. with over 30 championships, followed by A.C. Milan with close to twenty. For every ten titles won, a club is allowed to wear a golden star above their club badge; so Juventus has three, while Milan and Internazionale have one star each.
Cristiano Ronaldo joined Juventus, a team which players under the Italian domestic football league, and since then the viewership for Serie A games has skyrocketed to over 2 million for his matches; the league founded in the late 1800s was once ranked by UEFA as the third-best in Europe.
Other than Cristiano Ronaldo, footballers who compete in this league are Paulo Dybala, Lorenzo Insigne, and others.
Italy’s top-flight domestic league features long-dominating teams like Juventus, Lazio, Ac Milan, Inter Milan, and AS Roma.
In 2019, Serie A signed a 3 year domestic TV deal with Sky Italia & Media pro which is worth a reported €1.3 billion per per year.
The broadcasting deal is one of the biggest in footballing history other than the English Premier League and the Bundesliga Serie A has a massive following in Europe and beyond, especially with teams such as AC Milan dominating European competitions for years.
The top three teams in Seria A are qualified for the Champions League (one place also goes to the winner of the Coppa Italia) and the teams that are placed 3-6 will also get the chance to play in European Cups.
Since the season 2006-2007 the three teams placed at the bottom of the table (places 18-20) have been relegated to Serie B. In the 2005-2006 season only two teams were relegated. Before that two teams (places 18-20) were relegated directly and two teams (places 17-18) would go to playoffs consisting of a two-legged game in which the winner avoided relegation.
The league's all-time leading goalscorer is Silvio Piola who played in Cagliari Calcio and who's career lasted from 1929 to 1952. In thís period he scored 274 times in Serie A.
Next to Piola, Francesco Totti is the top goalscorer with 250 goals between 1992 and 2017.
Other notable goalscorer in the league are Gunnar Nordahl, José Altafini, Giuseppe Meazza, Antonio Di Natale and Roberto Baggio. They all scored over 200 times.
Ligue 1 is the French domestic league which has been playing outstanding football since the mid-1900s. It is among the most famous football leagues and one of the oldest leagues surpassed by few .
The league in its original form was first inaugurated in 1932, two years after professionalism in French football became legal.
In 2019, UEFA ranked Ligue 1 the 7th best in Europe. It has boasted players such as Edinson Cavani, Angel DiMaria, and Kylian Mbappe.
At the top of the French football league system, it is the country's primary football competition. Administrated by the Ligue de Football Professionnel, Ligue 1 is contested by 20 clubs and operates on a system of promotion and relegation from and to Ligue 2.
The first season (at this certain season the league was called National) included 20 teams, the same number of teams that are included in Ligue 1 today.
The winner has since 2007 received the “Hexagoal” trophy designed by Pablo Reinoso. It has replaced the old trophy, called “le Trophée de Ligue 1”, and designed by d'Andrée Putman.
The 20 clubs play against each other in home and away games, resulting in 38 for each team during a season. Since the 1994-95 seasons, three points are received for a win; for a draw, one point is received. Most points during a season were collected by Paris Saint-Germain in the 2015-2016 seasons (96).
The league's all-time leading goalscorer is the Argentinian Delio Onnis that played in Monaco, Reims, Tours, Toulon between 1971 and 1986. He did 299 goals in 449 appearances.
Other notabale goalscorers in the league's history are Bernard Lacombe, France Hervé Revelli, France Roger Courtois, France Thadée Cisowski and France Roger Piantoni. They all did over 200 goals each.
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The Campeonato Brasileiro Série A (Brazilian Championship A Series), commonly referred as Brasileirão, is a Brazilian professional league for men's football clubs.
At the top of the Brazilian football league system, it is the country's primary football competition. Contested by 20 clubs, it operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the Campeonato Brasileiro Série B.
Giants like São Paulo, Palmeiras, and Corinthians and the other big teams attract millions of fans every time they play. The Brasileiro is the most popular league in the world when it comes to producing emerging superstars.
Brasileirao is the Brazilian domestic league and is often the source of talent that ends up dominating the European football circuit.
Some of the professional footballers that have gone on to bigger and better things in Europe are Neymar, Firmino, and Alison Becker, among others. It is ranked as one of the best domestic leagues in the American continent and is massively successful in their own right.
Brasileirao is one of the most viewed football leagues in the world and in South America. Talent-scouts for international football clubs often attend games of this league to find future talent to play on European soil.
There are 20 clubs in the Brasileirão. During the course of a season (from May to December) each club plays the others twice (a double round-robin system), once at their home stadium and once at that of their opponents, for a total of 38 games.
Teams receive three points for a win and one point for a draw. No points are awarded for a loss. Teams are ranked by total points, victories, goal difference, and goals scored. At the end of each season, the club with the most points is crowned champion.
Another most entertaining league in world football is the Primera División (First Division), named Liga Profesional de Fútbol since 2020, is a professional football league in Argentina, organized by the Argentine Football Association (AFA).
With the first championship held in 1891, Argentina became the first country outside the United Kingdom (where the Football League had been debuted in 1888) to establish a football league.
In the early years, only teams from Buenos Aires, Greater Buenos Aires, La Plata, and Rosario were affiliated to the national association. Teams from other cities joined later.
The Primera División operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the Primera Nacional (Second Division), with the teams placed lowest at the end of the season being relegated.
Superliga Argentina is considered by many to be second to none; there is a fierce debate raging in South America as to whether or not the Argentinian domestic league is considered better than the Brazilian league.
Statistically speaking, the Argentinian league reports fewer domestic viewers alone than the Brazilian league. By this notion alone it can be ranked as being inferior.
Some of the most critically acclaimed footballers of our generation have been cultivated in the Argentinian league, footballers like Lionel Messi, the unstoppable Carlos Tevez, and the great Sergio Aguero all came from the Argentinian league.
The all-time top scorer of Primera División Argentina is Paraguayan forward Arsenio Erico with 295 goals.
Major League Soccer (MLS)
Major League Soccer (MLS) is a men's professional soccer league under the supervision of the United States Soccer Federation which represents the sport's highest level in the United States and Canada.
The league comprises 26 teams – 23 in the U.S. and 3 in Canada – and will expand to 30 teams by the 2023 season. MLS constitutes as one of the major professional sports leagues in both countries.
Major League Soccer, as another most famous football league in the world, was founded in 1993 as part of the United States' successful bid to host the 1994 FIFA World Cup. The inaugural season took place in 1996 with ten teams.
Established in 1993, Major League Soccer is the domestic soccer league of the United States of America. Since the MLS had its first season in 1996, TV viewership has increased to about 2 million viewers watching a single game.
In the media, MLS has been subject to constant attention. That can be attributed to the arrival of top European stars to the league.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s long-range strike, 40 yards out, against Los Angeles FC in March 2018, placed the MLS in the limelight briefly. MLS takes an outstanding spot on any list of the best soccer leagues in the world.
Major League Soccer's regular season runs from late February or early March to October. Teams are geographically divided into the Eastern and Western Conferences, playing 34 games in an unbalanced schedule.
With 26 teams in 2020, each team plays two games, home and away, against every team in its conference and one game against 10 of the 13 teams in the opposite conference.
The Eredivisie, "Honour Division" or "Premier Division," is the highest level of professional football in the Netherlands.
The league was founded in 1956, two years after the start of professional football in the Netherlands. As of the 2019–20 season it is ranked the 9th best league in Europe by UEFA.
The Eredivisie consists of 18 clubs. Each club meets every other club twice during the season, once at home and once away.
At the end of each season, the two clubs at the bottom are automatically relegated to the second level of the Dutch league system, the Eerste Divisie (First Division), while the champion and runner-up of the Eerste Divisie are automatically promoted to the Eredivisie.
The club finishing third from the bottom of the bottom of the Eredivisie goes to separate promotion/relegation play-offs with eight high-placed clubs from the Eerste Divisie.
The Dutch Eredivisie has progressed to be one of the most popular football leagues in the world. In 2019, Eredivisie was ranked the 9th best football league in Europe by UEFA.
In various continental tournaments, clubs that represent the Dutch Eredivisie are considered top contenders.
The soccer league has produced some of Europe’s top players, such as Matthijs De Light, Frenkie De Jong, and Virgil Van Dijk.
China Super League
China Super League currently ranks 14th among professional sports leagues in the world by revenue and is now among the 6th highest professional association football league in the world, and is growing rapidly.
The Chinese Football Association Super League, commonly known as Chinese Super League or CSL, currently known as the China Ping An Chinese Football Association Super League for sponsorship reasons, is the highest tier of professional football in China, operating under the supervision of the Chinese Football Association (CFA).
The Chinese National Football League was founded in 1951, namely the National Football Conference, it was a round-robin tournament with 8 teams participating.
In 1954, the competition was renamed as National Football League, the League was divided into two Divisions in 1956 and promotion/relegation between the two tiers started since 1957.
There are currently 16 teams competing for each season, and the Super League starts in March and ends in December.
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Every year 32 of the top teams in Europe are drawn into eight groups of four teams and play each other in a double round-robin system. This is the pinnacle of European football and the cup that every team wants to win.
Champions League, the most popular football league in the world, is a supranational sports competition, typically association football, which is contested by club teams who have distinguished themselves in their respective national competitions. The name originated with, and most often refers to, the UEFA Champions League.
The UEFA Champions League was founded in 1955, but the current format has been around since 1992. It was formally known as the European Champion Clubs’ Cup.
Spanish football clubs have won the most competitions in Europe with 14 times. Italy and England come in second with these two countries winning the Champions League a total of 12 times each.
Germany has a win of 7. Netherlands, a win of 6, and Portugal, a win of 4. France, Scotland, Romania, and Yugoslavia, all winning at least once.