How is a basic year of European soccer made?

Sports Asked on August 3, 2021

I’m so damn confused every time I want to try to watch some european soccer to know what league is currently playing or what are the current stakes or anything.

Every time I try to sit down to look into a team schedule it seems like they went from the NHL to the NBA. 90% of the teams on their schedules are different, they seem to go from local to international events, but that is not 100% clear to me.

I know they qualify for different leagues over time and idk if these teams may play in more than one league at the same time.

So what are the main stages of a season of european soccer? I’m gonna guess it loops on a yearly basis, but if I watch in july, what leagues may I expect to see? What is the loop from beginning to end? Its pretty confusing for a newcomer.

2 Answers

The major difference between European sports and American sports is that teams compete in multiple competitions during one season, as opposed to American teams which typically play in one competition only. To take English soccer, the top 92 teams will all compete in:

  • A division of the Premier League / Football League - each team plays each of 19-23 other English1 teams twice during the season, home and away.
  • The FA Cup, a single elimination knock out competition which just about every single football club in England down to the smallest recreational team can enter.
  • The League Cup, another single elimination knock out competition for the top 92 teams only.

The most successful clubs in the previous season will also compete in one of the two UEFA competitions, the Champions League or the Europa League, against clubs from other European countries. It is possible for one team to win the Premier League, the FA Cup, the League Cup and one of the European competitions in the same season (the "quadruple" - a quintuple is not possible as one team cannot be in both the Champions League and Europa League in the same season).

While there is a schedule for when each competition takes place, they all overlap, typically with Premier League, Football League and FA Cup matches on Fridays through Mondays, and League Cup and European matches on Tuesdays through Thursdays, but there are always exceptions and you will often have days when matches from four or even all five competitions happen.

On top of all that there are defined "international windows" when the Premier League and European football do not happen and players play for their national teams instead, often in World Cup or European Championship qualifiers.

1. For historical reasons, those 92 teams include three Welsh teams.

Correct answer by Philip Kendall on August 3, 2021

The major soccer countries in Europe (including Spain, Italy, Germany, England, France) roughly have their season run from late Summer to late Spring the following year. Then the knockout competition(s) will run at different times, usually within that time frame.

For example, in England, a Premier League or Championship team will not start playing in the FA Cup until January with the Final being held in mid to late May (around the end of the Premier League season). For teams lower down the pyramid then the FA Cup starts earlier in the season for them.

I find the most exciting months for the major countries to be March to May when most of the leagues and competitions start coming to their conclusion and the matches have a bit more significance.

In July the leagues you are most likely to see are the smaller premier division leagues in countries that have their season run from spring to autumn as opposed to the summer to spring. This is often due to weather limitations of winter and/or soccer having to compete with alternative sports. But you will also find pre-season (friendly) matches taking place in the major countries in July in preparation for the season starting in August.

This answer ignores the effect covid-19 has had on the scheduling over the past year.

Answered by The Footsie on August 3, 2021

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