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Understanding European Men's Soccer

February 16, 2021


European Soccer is way more complex than American soccer because every country has its own organization and leagues, that’s 28 different national bodies! Then there are international competitions and ruling bodies on top of that. Oh, one more thing – Soccer is called football in Europe.

National Leagues

Soccer is a tribal sport, so local teams are where fans’ love stands out the most. It’s a brave man or woman in Liverpool who supports Manchester United or Arsenal.

Let’s look at a few examples of national-level soccer:

· British Soccer

English and Scottish teams play in different leagues.

England has the Premiership, the Championship, League Division 1, and League Division 2. There are also many local leagues for amateur teams.

Scotland has its own Premiership, Championship, and League Divisions 1 & 2.

English and Scottish leagues all operate a promotion and demotion system at the end of every season.

· Spanish Soccer

Spain had 4 league divisions up to 2020, but has reorganized teams into 5 leagues from this year; La Liga, La Liga 2, Primera División RFEF, Segunda División RFEF, and Tercera Division RFEF. Teams move up and down the leagues depending on their performance.

· German Soccer

German men’s soccer is dominated by the Bundesliga (I), Bundesliga (II), and Liga. There are thousands of lower-level and local leagues with annual promotions and demotions up and down the whole league pyramid.


Soccer players in Europe are better paid than in the U.S.

Lionel Messi has a salary of $92 million, with endorsements adding another $34 million on top of that. Even the average English premier league player earns 10 times more than his American counterparts. These salaries happen because of the free market for players in Europe, so clubs have to pay more to sign the best players. Compare that to the MLS model in the U.S. where players' pay is capped.

Where do clubs get that kind of money? Sponsorship. Gate receipts can only bring in so much because of fans’ resistance to paying too high a price to watch a game live even when Covid restrictions are eased and grounds are allowed to open to spectators.

Soccer in Europe compares better to NFL than U.S. soccer. Soccer is the national sport in most European countries, so sponsors are prepared to pay big bucks to be top-of-mind when fans think of their favorite team.

Who are the sponsors?

Sponsors include the international sportswear brands you would expect to see like Adidas, Puma, and Nike. However, many other companies have hitched their wagons to the massive pulling power of soccer in Europe.

Emirates are big sponsors of soccer in different countries; Arsenal in England, and Real Madrid in Spain.

Real Madrid added a new sponsor at the start of this season by signing a deal with easyMarkets, a FOREX trading company.  

Liverpool FC has a deal with Standard Chartered Bank, and RB Leipzig in Germany wears shirts sponsored by Red Bull. Any company that has a large marketing budget can join the sponsorship club. 

European Competitions

European international soccer is run by UEFA (Union of European Football Associations). The most important competition is the UEFA Champions League. Clubs qualify by being top of the league in their different countries, so this is a competition between the best of the best and carries a lot of prestige.