Some Basic Football (Soccer) Questions

Inspired (partly) by the English Premiere League and Football in General Thread.

In the USA there is the MLS (Major League Soccer) with professional teams. There is also a national team that plays (or tries to) in the World Cup and Olympics.

I know David Beckham plays for Real Madrid, and presumably for the English national team, but I don’t know what league Real Madrid plays in.

I’ve heard of Arsenal and Manchester United, and assume that they are in the English Premier League.

Can someone give me a general overview of the world’s leagues, teams, associations, etc? What goes on in Brazil, Europe, Mexico, etc? What is the highest level soccer being played? (I’ve assumed that the World Cup and Olympic teams are the best, but maybe not – if the best players in the world come to play for Real Madrid?). What are the seasons?

I know it is a big subject, but surely someone here can give the overview, or at least point me to a link!

Thanks in advance for whatever ignorance you can dispell!

Wow, that is a lot of questions :slight_smile:

Almost every country in the world has a Football association which is generally in charge of running both domestic leagues as well as organizing national team play. AS far as the leagues go, the general setup is that there are sevel leagues, or tiers and the worst temas move down a tier while the best will move up. FOr example in England there is the PRemiere league at the top, the Coca-Cola Championship below that, League Two below that (I think, they renamed them) etc. Each league has 20-24 teams and the top three (more or less) move up and the bottom three move down a league.

Considered the top leagues in the world are La Liga in Spain (where Real Madrid plays, as well as Barcalona, Valencia), Serie A in Italy (Most well know n tes include AC Milan, Juventus, INter MIlan, AS Roma), the (Englidsh Premiere League (Arsenal, Manchester nited, Liverpool, Chelsea), and the German Bundesligia (Bayenr Munich, Bayer LEverkusen).

Below those in quality are probably Ligue 1 in France and the Eredivisie in Holland. In South America the best league is probably the Argentinian league, but I am not too familiar with it. I do know that the Brazillian league does not rate well esp. when compared with the national team.

That is very interesting – I never knew that (or even suspected it!). There is really no similar mechanism in any American sporting league (but, wow, think of the possibilities – Miami, Cleveland, Tennessee and Oakland all dropping out of the NFL down to the NFL light! That would make some of those end of the season games much more interesting!).

Do the leagues ever play one another? Would the champions of the English Premier League ever play the champions of La Liga? Do Eurpoean sports fans follow all of the leagues? Or just the one their local team plays in?

Imagine if, at the end of the 2004 baseball season, the Kansas City Royals, Arizona Diamondbacks and Seattle Mariners all moved to AAA, while the Sacramento Rivercats, Iowa Cubs and Oklahoma RedHawks moved to MLB. :eek:

I have a question: Is there a competitive balance? Do the teams share revenue? For example, does a London team always dominate the English Premiere League (because London has more people and thus sells more concessions, generates more TV revenue, puts more butts in the seats, etc.) whereas [small city in England] always bring up the rear? Sort of like the New York Yankees (big market) always dominate the American League while the Kansas City Royals (small market) always stink up the league?

Generally each league has their league competion and then one or more Cup competitions. I will use England as an example. The Premiere League competition has 20 teams and they each play each other home and away over the course of the season for 38 total games. At the end of the eseason the bottom three teams will be “relegated” to the lower division and the top teams from the lower division will be “promoted”. At the top of the table (the standings) there are many interesting things at stake as well. The team with the most points is the league champion and will get to play in the Champions League the next year, which is a sort of super league made up of the champions of all the various European Leagues. This used to be the province of only the Champions of each league, but realizing there was money to be made, it was transforemd to include seveal teams from each league, in England up to four or five teams can make it into the Champions league, usually representing the top four teams in the league. This is a hodge podge of groups tage and two-stage knock-out compettion.

Then there is also the UEFA Cup which is another money spinner for teams even further down the various league ranks.

Now to the CUp competitions. In England the main one and the oldest one is the FA Cup (“Football Association”). This is a knockout competition in which any and all teams compete. And I mean all, it starts with the smallest of clubs and after a few rounds higher rated clubs are brought in to the mix. Teams are not seeded, the pairings are made completely randomly and the home team also determined randomly. So it is quite possible for a superclub like ManU to play on te torn up old ground of a club like Hartlespool. Te “magic” of the FA Cup is that often enough these Davids defeat the Goliaths, with probably the most famous being Wimbledon FC defeateg the mighty Liverpool team in the FA Cup final in 1988.

Each country has an FA Cup equivalent and in England there is a second cup competition called the League Cup which is basically the same idea.

Keep in mind that a team can be in all FOUR competitions at the same time: The Premiere League, The Champions LEague, the League Cup, and the FA Cup as Chelsea were for a brief stint earlier this year. This leads to a very congested schedule for some teams.

You will hear about teams winning the “Double”, The"Treble" and recently “Quadruple”, the final one meaning they have won all four competitions. Te “treble” generally means winning the all but the League Cup. ManU, in 1999, is the only English club to have won the “treble” with some unbelievable comeback wins. Three years ago Arsenal won the double, FA CUp and the EPL.

No, there isn’t competitive balance, at least in the European leagues. There’s no salary cap and no draft (teams scout and sign players to their youth academies, I’ve heard that kids as young as 12 have been signed–although this is usually done by their local team, so going off to boarding school isn’t nearly as bad as it could be). The complaint has been that the same teams keep winning, thus they can afford the best players. Players are usually acquired simply by purchasing their contract; there’s nothing akin to ‘trading’ for someone.

Gangster Octopus explained the Champions League pretty well. The problem is that the Champions League has become so lucrative, that the simple act of participating in it becomes a windfall for the particular teams. They then spend that money on the best players, which gets them back into the Champions League the next year, leaving their domestic opponents further behind.

There has been talk of creating a European “Super League”, which would basically be the Champions League but would be a league competition–i.e. instead of a round-robin tournament, where a CL team might play three opponents to advance to the knockout stage, the CL team would forgo its domestic schedule and play every other team in the CL home-and-away.

Competitive balance is a lot more prevalent in MLS, the American first division. This is because of the salary cap and the fact that there are only 12 teams, and no relegation. MLS teams also participate in cup competitions; the domestic version is called the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup and has a surprisingly long history; it was first contested in 1914. The Champions League equivalent in North America is called . . . hell, I can’t remember. I want to say the “Copa Libertadores” but I think that’s South America, and Mexican clubs are invited to play in it.

I don’t follow the American (north or south) too much, but I think the North/Central American cup is just called the CONCACAF Cup, although I could be wrong on that. There is also a Gold Cup.

Just to clarify about MLS, it’s even more tight than a salary cap and only 12 teams. The league is run as a single, loose confederation. They approve exceptions to the cap numbers, allocate players to different teams, etc. It’s moving more in the direction of the NFL (or similar lately), but it’s still fairly tightly controlled. This is more to ensure fiscal responsibility than to keep competitive balance, but the competitive balance is there because of it.

Debate can get pretty strong about which is the best league. On this board it will be slanted a bit toward the Premiership, which is the richest league, because this board is predominantly English speaking and we have a lot of Brits. Manchester United is currently the richest club, which is based in Manchester, not London. London have five or so Premiership clubs, so the money gets diluted. ManU sell a LOT of merchandise overseas. Think of them as the NY Yankees of the world. Not always the best, but usually in the thick of it, and typically the best known at this point. The Premiership probably does have the best balance, top-to-bottom. La Liga and Serie A have a dropoff after the top 2-3 clubs.

Also, fwiw, the Mexican league is actually pretty decent.

No. Manchester United dominated English football throughout the nineties, with Liverpool being dominant in the past. Arsenal have been on top recently, but they seem to have faded this year. Chelsea are pretty much guaranteed to win this year’s Premiership title, but only because they had a > £100 million windfall in the form of a Russian oil tycoon bankrolling them. Before that, they were good, but nothing compared to Manchester United or Arsenal.

A main reason that London clubs don’t necessarily dominate is that the north has always had a strong association with football. The passion you’ll find in Liverpool, Manchester or Newcastle (not to mention Scotland) is arguably greater than anything in London.

Regarding the ‘dilution’ in London, don’t forget there’s plenty more teams in the lower divisions. The total teams in London, compared to population, roughly matches the rest of the country.

Man U’s domination of recent times is often cited as an example of money getting them everywhere. In fact, many of the star players were with the team from childhood, through the youth training schemes.

I feel no league even comes close to being as exciting as the Premiership. Spanish and Italian league players may have all the skill in the world, but for me, games are painful to watch due to the absurd amount of diving that is tolerated in those games by referees. While the football may be technically excellent, I simply can’t get excited over a game which is halted every thirty seconds for a free kick.

CONCACAF’s primary competition among itself is the CONCACAF Gold Cup. The finals will be this summer in various venues in the U.S. The final will be July 24 at Giants Stadium.

CONMEBOL, which is the South American federation, has a competition called the Copa America, which invites the South American squads plus a few CONCACAF teams to fill out the competition. Mexico and Costa Rica competed in it last year.

The Copa Libertadores is for clubs, not national teams.

Regarding the richest football teams, there’s this recent top-20 list…which I thought threw up some surprises - Man City? Villa?!

In Englsih Football the teams DO NOT share the TV revenues equally. The teams that finish at the top of the table get more of the pot then those further down. The logic is that they are the teams that attract the TV viewers ad therefore deserve more money. Logically that makes sense, but it is horrible for the competitive balance of the league. ALthough nothing compares with the disaster that is the Scottish Premiere League where no one besides Rangers and Celtic have won the league since 1985 when Aberdeen won and many of the teams are near financial ruin (Rangers have won 50 SPL titles, Celtic 39, Aberdeen 4, Hearts 4, Hibernian 4, Dumbarton 2, and Motherwell 1).

Example of Scottish football passion


I noticed no one answered the question about season (since everything else has been answered, why not ;)). The European leagues usually go from Fall to Spring (October to May, IIRC). In Europe, soccer is more of a cold weather game. In the US, MLS is played in the summer, mostly because of less sports competition (only baseball is around then… well that and NASCAR).

Also, most talk will center around the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, German Bundesliga, etc. European teams… the Champions League and UEFA Cup are for them. Of course Argentina and Brazil have their own leagues. So do smaller Latin American countries like Honduras, Mexico, and Columbia. Suffice to say there are a TON of leagues out there. Most people follow the European ones because the best talent flows there (mostly because there is more money there).

And I think the MLS is one of the only leagues where the revenues are shared. In that respect football around the world is much more ‘capitalist’ than the American sports we have.

The EPL runs from August (second weekend, I think) to May (again, roughly the second w/e). If you have to qualify for the UEFA Cup (through a thing called the Intertoto Cup), then you have competitive games in middish July.

Are you saying that revenues are also shared in the popular American sports, such as football and basketball?

Thanks for the more specific time frame :).

Revenues are almost evenly shared in American football and basketball has a revenue sharing agreement as well, IIRC. Both sports also have a salary cap (of some sorts).

Basbeall is the outlier. It doesn’t have a salary cap and it’s “revenue sharing” is a luxury tax if the payroll goes above some obscene number. So far only two teams have had to pay it since it was initiated (NY Yankees, since the plan began in the late 90s, and the Boston Red Sox last year).

Another outlier presumably is hockey, hence the current ructions. But of course that’s a Canadian sport really!

Yeah, I didn’t count that, though I probably should have.

Though American football is the model everone wants to emulate. They have a national TV deal, whose revenues are divided evenly among the 32 teams. Gate revenues are divided up as well. Along with a hard salary cap, no NFL team is akin to the Yankees or Chelsea/Arsenal/ManU where they can spend a ton more than other teams. Also every team is highly profitable and none are in financial difficulty. It helps that it is the most popular sport around ;).

Contrast that to baseball which is financially run similarly to the EPL, though with some minimal revenue sharing (luxury tax).