A soccer league works by giving points to teams, 3 for winning, and for 1 drawing. At the end of the season, the league position determines if they’re champions, competition qualifiers, or relegated.
Soccer teams in leagues normally play each other over the course of the season twice, home and away.
If the league is only small they will play three, or even four games against each other.
There are different systems across the world and there are differences in cup competitions and leagues that are not the top ones.
Knowing how soccer leagues work creates a better atmosphere, the game has added intensity when there’s something on the line.
- A win gives the team 3 points and a draw gives each team 1 point for a league match, but during a knock-out stage, the aggregate (total) score over two games is what matters.
How do soccer leagues work?
leagues work over a season of soccer and are played over the space of a year. The games/points determine what position of the league the team is in. For competition and fairness, teams are promoted and relegated.
There’s only one winner of a league, and sometimes three teams are relegated to the league below for the following season – this enables three new teams to be promoted.
For a cup competition, there are no teams relegated. If they end up at the bottom of the league or near there, they’ve put out of the competition,
How do soccer fixtures work?
The fixtures of who plays who are decided before the start of the season, so the teams can prepare. The season is split into two, and a team will play half of their games at home and a half away.
Fixtures for cup games and competitions are not decided until the competing teams are decided.
The draws normally take place a month or two before the games are due to begin.
How do the Major League Soccer work?
The MLS has 26 competing teams and is set to increase to 30 in 2020. During a season, the leagues are split into two, the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference.
Due to the traveling distance between the two areas, they don’t compete until the end of the season if they reach the playoffs.
How does the MLS cup work?
Seven teams from each conference division will reach the cup playoffs to try and win the MLS Cup.
Those teams are at the top of the table based on points and if level, wins, goal difference, then total goals scored.
- The two top teams are not required to play the first eliminator game, so they’re given a bye and wait for the next round.
There’s only one match per tie played until the semi-final and those matches are played at the home of the highest-seeded team.
The final is contested between the winners of the semi-finals in a one-game match hosted at the highest seeded team’s stadium.
Does the MLS have relegation?
Unlike the majority of leagues around the world, MLS does not have a relegation system in place.
This is because the league is a franchise with a set amount of teams competing.
This allows for all teams to compete next season but it loses some of the magic for a battle to stay up.
Do different soccer leagues play each other?
Only for a pre-season friendly or if they’re drawn against each other in a cup game.
How does the English Premier League work?
The premier league format is similar to most others around the world. During a season each team plays each other team twice, home and away.
The team with the most points at the end of the season, at the top of the table, is the winner of the league.
The EPL consists of 20 teams and each team plays a total of 38 games.
EPL relegations and promotions
After all the games are played, the bottom three teams will be relegated to the Championship, which is the 2nd tiered league.
Two teams from the Championship will be promoted automatically to the Premier League leaving one place to be decided in playoffs between four teams.
How does the Champions League work?
The Champions League begins with leagues – four teams in each. Each team plays each other home and away, and after six games the winner of the group progresses to play the runner-up of another team from a different league.
The leagues are decided with a seeding system. This is to make sure there’s an even distribution of the best teams amongst the leagues.
These next games are the knockout stages of the competition and after playing home and away.
The winner is decided on the team who scores the most goals on aggregate over two matches – with more weight added to the team that scores more away from home.
How does the World Cup work?
The World Cup works the same way as the Champions League. Teams in divisions of four with the top two teams progressing to the next stage.
There’s, of course, no relegation, just an exit from the competition for the two lowest placed teams.
The two progressing teams will face teams from another league in the playoff rounds. The first-placed team will face a second-placed team from another division winner.
- Playoff games are played over 90 minutes with an extra time of 30 minutes played if the scoreline is still level.
Then onto a penalty shootout if there’s still no decider after the added time.
That’s how soccer leagues work – a slight variation to each one. The team at the top of the league wins unless there are playoffs.
Joel is a seasoned soccer journalist and analyst with many years of experience in the field. Joel specializes in game analysis, player profiles, transfer news, and has a keen eye for the tactical nuances of the game. He played at various levels in the game and coached teams - he is happy to share his insight with you.