Best Soccer League in the World

The best Soccer Leagues in the World

The debate over the best football leagues in the world is one that ranks highest at the top of every soccer fan in the universe. There are so many criteria to evaluate and so many different factors that change annually and sometimes daily! The problem with this hypothetically debate over the top soccer leagues is that there is no way to actually have the leagues play against each other. So we are left with opinions and that’s what we will give today.

This will not be based on some stupid stats pulled from other websites, instead, we will analyze some of the important factors that would impact where the best soccer leagues in the world could be. We saw one website explain that the best leagues were based on where more goals were scored…… well in that case our Sunday league would rank the highest because games end up 9-7 all the time…..

Ranking the top soccer leagues in the world is subjective, but at least we can try to give an unbiased and informed opinion. So lets rank the top football leagues in the world and explain some of the factors that impact the top ranking based on our opinion.

According to FIFA, the league to send the most players to the 2018 World Cup was the English Premier League. This criteria is a great factor in determining where the best players in the world play. The FIFA world cup normally has some of the best players in their prime of their careers representing their country in a bid for the World Cup title. Since 2018 was the most recent world cup, we felt this is a huge factor in determining where the best football leagues are since many of the top players play there.

One of the problems with using this criteria is that there are some players that are in the top 10 in the world, but since they come from a weaker football country, they were not in the world cup in 2018. A player at the top of his game like Sala was not in the World Cup and he’s a great example of a magnificent player not playing in the 2018 WC.

The counter argument would be that this criteria is still a great resource because the countries that did make it through were filled, presumably, with great players. So Sala may have been left out, however he was not surrounded by good talent in Egypt, therefore this statistic would not count his team as “top players”. So one great player is left out, but so are many other weaker players.

Here is the list of the top Soccer Leagues in the world that sent the most players to the 2018 World Cup. As noted above, the English Premier League ranks at the top using this criteria.

Country Players Percentage         Outside

national

squad    Lower tier

players

 England               129         17.53%  106         24

 Spain    81           11.01%  64           2

 Germany            67           9.10%    52           5

 Italy      58           7.88%    58           0

 France 49           6.66%    40           1

 Russia  36           4.89%    15           0

 Saudi Arabia      30           4.08%    10           0

 Mexico 23           3.13%    14           1

 Turkey 22           2.99%    22           0

Others  241         32.74%  146         1

Total      736         100%     527         34

Looking closer at this list, you can see that Italy was the only country that was not represented at the World Cup, however they still sent a total of 58 players.

Lets look at another set of criteria and see which teams in the top Football Leagues had the most player representation at the 2018 World Cup.

At the top was Manchester City with 16 players, however Barcelona and Real Madrid followed with 15 and 14. Tottenham had 12. This demonstrates what the top of the best soccer leagues in the world look like in terms of top players in the world. Although Manchester United had 16, the next team representing the English Premier were the Spurs with 12, giving England two teams in the top 5 and a total of 28 players. In contrast, Spain’s La Liga had two teams in the top 5, with Barcelona (15) and Real Madrid (14) players representing their countries in the world cup. So this would tell us that Spain has the top teams with the most players with 29, just one over the English Premier League’s 28. But that’s a small sample size and we will go down to the top 10 teams with the most players in the World Cup in 2018. We then see that the English Premier League has legitimate reason to proclaim the top position in the top soccer leagues in the universe. The EPL had a total of 4 teams in the top 10 list, including Man City (16), Tottenham (12), Chelsea (11), and Manchester United (11). Spain did not have any other teams in the top 10. This gives the English Premier League a total of 4 teams with a total of 50 players.

Club

Players

Manchester City

16

Real Madrid

15

Barcelona

14

Paris Saint-Germain

12

Tottenham Hotspur

12

Bayern Munich

11

Chelsea

11

Juventus

11

Manchester United

11

Lets take a look at another factor that has a huge impact on determining which soccer league is the best in the world. The next factor is the EUFA Champions League winners, past and present. The reason this is a good determining factor is because it’s the most prestigious club championship tournament in soccer history. I think we can all agree that the best teams, players, and leagues are in Europe, that doesn’t mean that other leagues can’t compete, but that historically it’s usually one of those leagues that have the best players and teams that compete.

So who are the most successful soccer clubs in the EUFA champions league tournament? Real Madrid and Barcelona have combined for a total of 11 UEFA CL titles. That total dwarfs any other soccer league in the world. The closest leagues that come close to them is the English Premier League and Calcio in Italy with 5 CL winners coming from each League respectively.

Barcelona and Real Madrid have captured 7 of the past 11 titles, YIKES!!! Both clubs are from Spain’s La Liga. That’s a complete domination of the CL tournament in Europe. The counter argument to this as mentioned above is that some of the top players in the world may not play for a team in the CL tournament, but just as mentioned earlier with the SALA argument, some top players and teams will be left out, but we have to draw the line somewhere to form an opinion based on facts.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNER

Titles and success

Season

Team

Victory coaches

UEFA Champions League

18/19

Liverpool FC

Jürgen Klopp

17/18

Real Madrid

Zinédine Zidane

16/17

Real Madrid

Zinédine Zidane

15/16

Real Madrid

Zinédine Zidane

14/15

FC Barcelona

Luis Enrique

13/14

Real Madrid

Carlo Ancelotti

12/13

Bayern Munich

Jupp Heynckes

11/12

Chelsea FC

Roberto Di Matteo

10/11

FC Barcelona

Pep Guardiola

09/10

FC Internazionale

José Mourinho

08/09

FC Barcelona

Pep Guardiola

07/08

Manchester United

Sir Alex Ferguson

06/07

AC Milan

Carlo Ancelotti

05/06

FC Barcelona

Frank Rijkaard

04/05

Liverpool FC

Rafael Benítez

03/04

FC Porto

José Mourinho

02/03

Milan AC

Carlo Ancelotti

01/02

Real Madrid

Vicente del Bosque

00/01

Bayern Munich

Ottmar Hitzfeld

99/00

Real Madrid

Vicente del Bosque

98/99

Manchester United

Sir Alex Ferguson

97/98

Real Madrid

Jupp Heynckes

96/97

Borussia Dortmund

Ottmar Hitzfeld

95/96

Juventus FC

Marcello Lippi

94/95

Ajax Amsterdam

Louis van Gaal

93/94

Milan AC

Fabio Capello

92/93

Olympique Marseille

Raymond Goethals

Value of the top clubs in the world.

Another criterion to use is to analyze the richest clubs in the world and see where the most valued clubs come from. Although this will show the top of each league, it does help us determined where the top clubs are that have the money to bring in top talent and to create good teams in their league. This would also put pressure on the lower level teams to increase their own spending so they can compete in the league.

According to FIFA, the top two richest clubs in the world are in Spain, with Real Madrid and Barcelona taking the first two spots. But looking at the list closer, we can determine that the English Premier League has 9 of the top 20 richest clubs in the world. This demonstrates that the clubs in the EPL have the resources to bring in top players from around the globe, making the league and teams more competitive.

This list also demonstrates what we mentioned earlier about the champions league tournament. The top 20 richest clubs in soccer all come from leagues that are represented at the tournament. So the top teams in terms of value are all European clubs.

The counter argument to this is that there is a small sample with only 20 teams being represented. Some may also argue that just because a football club is valued high doesn’t mean they are a good team. But as mentioned above, the richest clubs have more resources to purchase players from other countries in the transfer market, given them a higher probability to field a good team on the pitch. Let’s face it, the majority of good players are expensive. A soccer team should also field some scrappy work horses that can defend and do the dirty work, but the majority of teams have some deep talent on their roster if they want to be successful.

Rank

Team

Country

Value

In millions

% change
on year

Debt as
% of value

Revenue ($M)

1

Real Madrid

Spain

4,239

4

1

896

2

Barcelona

Spain

4,021

-1

0

824

3

Manchester United

England

3,808

-8

19

795

4

Bayern Munich

Germany

3,024

-1

0

751

5

Manchester City

England

2,688

9

0

678

6

Chelsea

England

2,576

25

0

597

7

Arsenal

England

2,268

1

11

520

8

Liverpool

England

2,183

12

3

613

9

Tottenham Hotspur

England

1,624

31

37

511

10

Juventus

Italy

1,512

3

9

480

11

Paris Saint-Germain

France

1,092

12

0

646

12

Atlético Madrid

Spain

953

12

23

363

13

Borussia Dortmund

Germany

896

-1

0

379

14

Schalke 04

Germany

683

-3

12

291

15

Internazionale

Italy

672

11

50

335

16

Roma

Italy

622

1

41

298

17

West Ham United

England

616

-18

10

236

18

Milan

Italy

583

-5

42

248

19

Everton

England

476

32

0

254

20

Newcastle United

England

381

-

0

240

In 2018 There were a total of 262 non-Home Grown players in the English Premier league, a number that is steadily increasing towards its maximum of 340, as it would be if all 20 Premier League teams were to take up the max number of 17 slots. The FA estimates that on current trends that 340 would be reached by 2030. This trends demonstrates the competitiveness of the EPL. All the clubs are looking to buy talent from abroad, even though it’s more expensive if they can’t find it at home.

Germany's Bundesliga 1 and 2 do not have a maximum foreign player limit, but instead a minimum "local" player limit. At least 8 players must have played for the club in three seasons each before turning 25, and at least 4 further players must have done the same at any German club.

France's Ligue 1 appears to have a limit of five foreign players (with a similar meaning as above) and further allows only four to be playing on the field at any time. However sources on this are unclear as to whether the five is actually four (and thus the second limit is unnecessary). Actual regulations are not easy to find.

La Liga

La Liga regulations permit up to three "foreign" players per team.

"Foreign" refers to a player from outside the European Union. Due to a legal ruling over a German handball player, there are exceptions for people from countries with EU association agreements (because a quota that counts them is a restriction on their employment opportunity contrary to such an agreement).

Players with ancestry of an EU country may also use this to be counted as an EU player, and therefore not as foreign. For example, Argentine players of Italian descent have used this method to avoid the quota.

Next we will review the attendance at the top soccer leagues in the world. The attendance was a difficult factor to analyze and determine if a league’s attendance equals a higher rating. However one way to determine “the best soccer leagues” is to take attendance and see how many people are going to the games!!

Below is the list of the top 5 attendance in domestic leagues in football.

League

Sport

Country

Season

Teams

Games

Average
capacity

Average
attendance

Average
Attendance
Percentage of
Average
Capacity (%)

Total
attendance

Ref(s)

Premier League

Association football

England/Wales

2017–18

20

380

38,519 *

38,274

99.36

14,505,999

[6]

Bundesliga

Association football

Germany

2017–18

18

306

48,791

44,646

91.50

13,661,796

[7]

EFL Championship

Association football

England/Wales

2017–18

24

552

28,087

20,489

72.95

11,309,726

[9]

La Liga

Association football

Spain

2017–18

20

380

39,532

26,842

67.90

10,173,142

[10]

Serie A

Association football

Italy

2017–18

20

380

41,174

24,767

60.15

9,411,539

[11]

Ligue 1

Association football

France/Monaco

2017-2018

20

380

22,524

8,559,056

[13]

Major League Soccer

Association football

United States/Canada

2018

23

391

22,863

21,873

95.67

8,552,503

[14]

With the attendance statistics, we see that again the English Premier League is by far the most attended by fans. We believe that this translates to competitive teams throughout the league and fan interest across all teams. Although many may feel that the EPL is top heavy, this table shows that it may not be the case. Fans all over the country show up to support the team. However this does not take into account the TV audience numbers, which could reflect a different story. But it should be noted that in the US alone, the TV audience for the EPL has grown over 74%!! (http://worldsoccertalk.com/2019/08/21/premier-league-viewership-grew-74-last-decade-us-tv/The popularity of the EPL keeps growing, especially since the games are broadcasted in English and the team’s communications and interviews are in in English. That’s a huge advantage over leagues like La Liga, Bundesliga, and Serie A.

Surprisingly the EFL Championship League in Wales came in 3rd place, that is surprising considering the league is not very popular around the globe. It even beat out La Liga, which many feel that it is very top heavy. This table could help prove that argument as the top 4-5 clubs in the country take up all the attention with Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Barca, Sevilla, and Valencia getting the majority of the trophies.

Another surprise on this list is the Major League Soccer in the USA. Although not nearly as popular around the world as, let’s say, the Brazilian, Mexican, or Argentinian Leagues, it does get higher attendance. This however may be the result of just simple economics, since the US has a higher income per capita ratio than the other 3 countries.

In conclusion, the choosing of the top leagues in the soccer world is not an easy task. But instead of just making up subjective answers based on weak observations, we looked deep into the data that could tell us where the best soccer league is located.

Europe boasts some of the best soccer clubs and leagues in the world. However the Seria A in Italy has been plagued by all types of issues including money laundering, game fixing, and several others. But still it’s a great league in the top 5.

The Bundesliga in Germany and the Ligue One in France are great leagues, but they don’t have the depth of an EPL, but another one that should be in the top 5. They have also represented well in the Champions League and have Bayern Munich a huge player in Europe and currently PSG.

La Liga is probably the closest to the EPL. It’s watched around the globe. They have two huge giants. They get players from all over the world and huge transfers, but it’s mainly 3-4 clubs doing it. So for the lack of depth and lack of attendance, la Liga gets 2nd place.

There are many other soccer leagues that are very competitive and exciting, including the Campeonato Brazileiro Serie A, Liga MX (Mexico), and the Super Liga Argentina in South America. However, the issue with these leagues is the money invested into each league. The money in Europe is just too astronomical for players to pass up. This is a never-ending cycle and these leagues can’t keep up. The cycle starts when a great player is offered Millions of dollars or pounds to go play overseas. The domestic leagues in countries like Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina cannot match the offers. So, the best players in these leagues leave, and who can blame them. This basically means that these leagues will never ever keep a young star because in order to have the money to keep one of them, the teams need to get better and increase the revenue. However they can’t do that because the best players leave, thus leaving the team weaker and with less value.

Take for example the club Santos in Brazil and the player Neymar comes to mind. Neymar was starting form into one of the best players in the world as a teenager just 8 years ago. He was so good that Santos dominated the Campeonato Brazileiro Seria A with him. They even won the South America’s version of the Champions League, Liga Santander de Campeones. Santos then went on to represent South America in the Club World Cup held in December 2011. Santos played vs Barcelona. And as Santo FC was starting to compete in world stage with their superstar, although they lost 4-0, by 2013 Barcelona took Neymar and Santos had to start over again. So with Barcelona already a European and World Giant, they went and took Santo’s only chance at competing and instead got even better. Barcelona was able to offer for Neymar a $90,000,000.00 transfer fee.

So this is a great example of why the odds of the South American clubs ever catching up to the European clubs, the odds are stacked up against them. Also, the players want to go to Europe to play, so there is more money and more prestige, something drastic will need to occur.

So, moving on…..

Based on the data collected we have concluded the English Premier League is the world’s best soccer league. Although the leagues, as a whole, have not won many European Champions League finals, they have represented well in the tournament and always do, as evident in 2019 when both teams playing in the final were from England.

We also have to take into account the other European League’s top-heavy tables. In Spain you have the two giants, Barca and Galacticos. In Seria A you have AC Milan and Inter Milan. In the Bundesliga there is Bayern Munich and Bayern Leverkusen. These teams represent a huge obstacle for the EPL clubs who also have to deal with a very tough domestic league.

Some may argue that it can’t be the EPL because England hasn’t won a World Cup in a long time, however we were not evaluating the national team’s progress in the WC, but rather the players and teams in that country’s domestic league.

We chose England because they have some of the richest clubs in the world of football. They also lead in attendance. English Premier League also had the most players representing their countries in the most recent world cup as of 2019. The EPL also has the 2nd most CL titles and tied with Seria A in Italy. And finally as mentioned above when comparing teams that had players in the 2018 WC, the EPL had a total of 4 teams in the top 10 list, including Man City (16), Tottenham (12), Chelsea (11), and Manchester United (11). Even though Spain had the top two teams, it did not have any other teams in the top 10.

What other criteria should we have used to find the best football league in the world?

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