There are professional soccer leagues everywhere in the world, but the best players tend to gravitate toward certain countries. Those who have clubs that spend the most money are usually going to attract the most players, although history plays a role in things as well. We are watching history unfold before our eyes as MLS and Saudi League bid to move top players like Lionel Mesi.
Table: Top 20 Football Leagues in the World
|Best among top soccer leagues.
|Dominated by three major teams.
|Rising with star signings.
|Bayern Munich’s dominance.
|PSG overshadows others.
|Netherlands’ top competition.
|Brazilierio Serie A
|Best outside Europe.
|Dominated by three clubs.
|Russian Premier League
|Two-decade old competitive league.
|Fiercely competitive second tier.
|Austrian T-Mobile Bundesliga
|Top talent often departs.
|Belgian Jupiler Pro League
|Homegrown talents leave often.
|Argentina Primera Division
|Talent hub but faces player drain.
|Ukrainian Premier League
|Shakthar Donetsk leads.
|Swiss Raiffeisen Super League
|History since 1898.
|Turkish Super Lig
|Galatasaray and others lead.
|Greek Super League
|Once dominant, now declining.
|Major League Soccer
|Growing North American presence.
|Chinese Super League
|Top league in Asia.
|FC Copenhagen and Midtjylland lead.
A snapshot of the world’s 20 top soccer leagues based on their global prominence and competitiveness.
What are the best 20 leagues in the world right now?
There is a pretty distinct top five when looking at leagues right now, but there are some surprises after that as legs are jockeying for position and bragging rights.
20. The Hidden Gem: Danish Superligaen
Let’s check out a league that might not be on your radar yet: the Danish Superligaen. Sitting at rank 20 among the world’s best, it’s a secret waiting to be unraveled.
Have you ever had a Danish pastry? Delicious, right? Think of the Superligaen as soccer’s delightful treat. It’s not as globally celebrated as the Premier League or La Liga, but boy, does it pack a punch!
Engaging Matches, Pure Talent
First off, the atmosphere is electric. Imagine stadiums echoing with chants, fans’ faces painted, and an unmatched passion. These folks don’t just watch soccer; they live it. The players? They’re not just athletes; they’re local heroes.
Denmark might be small, but its talent is anything but! Just peek at their players who’ve conquered international fields. FC Copenhagen and FC Midtjylland dominate right now, but a few other teams have made the league competitive.
19. The Eastern Powerhouse: Chinese Super League
There are teams in China that have the money to make the Chinese Super League a pretty dominant force if they want to. They are the best league in Asia right now, and the sport is growing with a vast population growing up playing for the first time. Both Major League Soccer and the Chinese Super League could be near the top 10 in a decade.
18. Major League Soccer
The United States seems pretty focused on doing what it can to make Major League Soccer an actual threat in the soccer world. They are the only North American league to make this list, and the 18th might be a little low on going off of name recognition. The problem is, MLS teams still focus on known players at the twilight of their careers. They need to land more stars in their prime if they want to be taken seriously.
17. Greek Super League
Some blame it on Greece not having as much passion for soccer as some other countries in today’s world. Others look at the financial struggles of many top clubs as a reason why they have dropped so low. The Greek Super League still has some talent occasionally, but it is not like it used to be. They are one to look out for if they ever do get things back together as they rise up the ranks.
16. Turkish Super Lig
Turkey is propped up by the likes of Galatasaray, Fenerbahce, and Besiktas. Turkey’s most prominent threat in international competition is Galatasaray. There are always at least a few players in the league considered top internationally. Turkey’s style is a little more physical than most, appealing to some fans looking for a brand of soccer they enjoy.
15. Swiss Raiffeisen Super League
Some form of a Swiss Super League has been around since 1898, and with all that history, the league has fluctuated in talent throughout the years. Since starting their current format in 2003, just three teams have won the title.
Basel and Zurich trade-off win in the early stages of the new format, but the Young Boys have won three straight. Some talented players come through the league at times, but they usually end up signing their contracts when they get near their prime.
14. Ukrainian Premier League
When Shakthar Donetsk broke through the knockout stages in champions league action a few years ago, it gave the Ukrainian Premier league a little bit of notoriety. It usually comes down between them and Dynamo Kyiv for the domestic crown. Since more talent is starting to come through Ukraine and as youth ranks, it has helped grow their league in general.
13. Argentina Primera Division
Argentina certainly has the talent to be higher on this list coming from the country easier, but many of them leave to Europe to play for the power teams. They run into the same situations like Brazil, only it is worse in Argentina.
A few clubs have money to pay to aging stars, but it is mostly a breeding ground for players to jump elsewhere. For those who want to stay in South America, being the second-best league does provide a little benefit.
12. Belgian Jupiler Pro League
The league in Belgium is much like the league in Austria and that many top homegrown players leave for other spots on prestigious European clubs. The top teams in Belgium do not have the money to throw to top players and keep them satisfied.
11. Austrian T-Mobile Bundesliga
The Austrian T-Mobile Bundesliga gets lost in the shuffle a lot because they do not have any teams that make much noise. In recent years, Red Bull Salzburg has evolved into the team to beat, but they are hoping to impact the Europa League and Champions League at some point. Austria loses a fair share of the top players to other leagues in Europe.
10. Championship (English second league)
As competitive as the Premier League is in England, there is still some quality soccer found in other England leagues as well. The second league consists of some teams that have recently been relegated from the Premier League, and that alone puts them in the top 10 for leagues worldwide.
A big reason why this league is still competitive is that there is just so much money invested in these clubs. With Premier league spots on the line every year, teams are looking to go all in and see what they can accomplish before moving up.
9. Russian Premier League
Considering that the Russian Premier League has only been around for two decades, it is fairly impressive that they are this high up in the list made up of many teams filled with Russian-born players. A few clubs have solidified themselves as of the best.
CSKA Moscow and Zenit St. Petersburg both have six titles each to their name, and they are hoping to start showing what they can do in the rest of Europe. Do not be surprised if the Russian Premier League starts to climb up the list a bit.
8. Portuguese Liga
Portugal is yet another country that has a domestic league dominated by a few teams. The domination in Portugal is unlike most. Then, FC Porto, Sporting CP, and Benfica have won all but two titles in their history. They have found success against other clubs in Europe, which is why they at least are a little high up in the rankings.
7. Brazilierio Serie A
The top league outside of Europe is in Brazil. It is still a relatively new league, and many teams run into issues financially to keep quality players. That leaves teams with a lot of players who might be a little over the hill, and some younger guys still developing and figuring out what they can provide.
It is still an exciting league and it continues getting support throughout South America. If they can find a way to keep the best Brazilian players home, it could begin to challenge one of the top five leaders on the list.
After the top five leagues, the overall level play dips significantly. That is not to say that there are not good players and teams scattered throughout the other leagues, but it is just not the same as the top five. The Dutch league comes the closest, as they have a few clubs that can make noise outside of the Netherlands as well.
Ajax, PSV Eindhoven, and Feyenoord Rotterdam are the three teams that collect the most talent and produce the best results in the league. The hard part is bringing in players from outside of the Netherlands because most of the top players will go to more established leagues to compete.
5. Ligue 1
Like many other leagues, Ligue 1 is dominated by a single team. Paris Saint-Germain is a club that can compete with anyone, but there is just no real depth in France right now. People are always going to tune in to see the likes of Neymar in Kylian Mbappe, but most soccer fans don’t watch them play in the Ligue 1, but only when it’s time for the Champions League.
Other teams need to step up to challenge PSG before Ligue 1 can think about moving up this list. Maybe that will happen eventually, but everything seems to be moving slowly right now.
The Bundesliga might not be the most competitive league in the world, but they do have one of the most successful clubs in the world in Bayern Munich. They have won every German championship since 2013, and they fare well against the top teams in Europe as well.
Unfortunately, their dominance has caused some frustration domestically. With the league turning into a race for second, many are hoping that a few teams might start making a push of their own.
Borussia Dortmund and VfL Wolfsburg are two teams in the best position to make that push towards the top, but Bayern Munich is a true juggernaut at this point domestically. It will take a huge effort to dethrone them over an entire season.
3. Serie A
It might surprise some to see Serie A in 3rd, but the league has made some great strides lately in landing star players and having some competitive balance. The marquee player is Ronaldo, but the league received a nice boost when Zlatan Ibrahimovic signed with AC Milan. They are both nearing the end of their careers, but having them on two of the top teams in the league helps with worldwide notoriety.
AC Milan, Inter Milan, and Juventus are historically the big three in Serie A, but Napoli, Roma, and Atalanta have all shown that they can make things competitive domestically. They still have a ways to go to compete with the two above them, but Serie A continues to improve.
2. La Liga
When people think of La Liga, they think of two teams: Barcelona and Real Madrid. There is no question that these two teams have the history, the star players, the fan bases, and the money to compete with any club team in the world. However, one relatively new team in Spain helps make this the second-best league in the world.
Atletico Madrid is the only other team to win La Liga since 2005. They are continually in the hunt in recent years not only domestically but in international competitions as well. They haven’t won a Champions League title yet, but they did finish runner-up twice.
Spain might not have the depth of the English Premier League, but they do have the most Champions League titles with 18. As long as the teams with money continue signing top players, La Liga seems firmly placed in second.
1. Premier League
Many leagues have tried to replicate what the Premier League provides, but it is still the best soccer league in the world. It has the most competition from top to bottom, a few teams that can compete with anyone in the world, and a rabid fan base that keeps things going.
England might be struggling to some degree in producing homegrown talent, but the ability to import players from other countries helps keep the Premier League strong. In any given year, Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, and Arsenal are all dangerous threats in the Champions League.
💼 Financial Dynamics of Top Leagues
Soccer’s universal appeal and cultural significance have anchored it firmly in the global economy, reflecting and shaping economic trends. From the bustling markets of player transfers to the architectural marvels of modern stadiums, the economics of soccer offers a fascinating study of financial muscle, architectural innovation, and media influence.
Here’s a snapshot of how these clubs keep the cash flowing:
- Match-day Revenue: It’s all about filling those seats! Larger stadiums and passionate fans mean more tickets sold and, consequently, higher income.
- Broadcasting Rights: Securing deals with TV networks and digital platforms for game broadcasting rights is like striking gold for soccer clubs.
- Commercial Revenue: This includes everything from sponsorships and merchandise sales to licensing deals. Big clubs often bag hefty sponsorship deals.
- Player Transfers: A profitable business in itself, especially for clubs with a knack for nurturing young talent and selling them for a premium.
Delving into the “Big 5” European leagues, we witness the economic might of soccer. The Premier League, for instance, is a front-runner in commercializing the sport. Despite the pandemic’s challenges, it raked in a whopping €5.9 billion in the 2019/2020 season, per Deloitte’s Annual Review of Soccer Finance.
Table 1: Top 5 European Leagues by Revenue (2019/2020 season)
|Total Revenue (€ billion)
|Match-day Revenue (€ billion)
|Broadcasting Rights (€ billion)
|Premier League (ENG)
|La Liga (SPA)
|Serie A (ITA)
|Ligue 1 (FRA)
Source: Deloitte Annual Review of Soccer Finance
🏟️ Stadiums and Infrastructure: Beyond the Game
Stadiums are no longer just venues for soccer matches; they’ve evolved into architectural masterpieces and multipurpose hubs. The construction or renovation of these structures is a hefty investment, often running into billions. Take Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium in London, for instance, which cost over £1 billion. These stadiums don’t just host soccer matches; they’re venues for concerts and a plethora of events, adding layers to their revenue streams.
Beyond the stadiums, hosting major soccer events like the FIFA World Cup prompts countries to invest massively in infrastructure, from transportation to hospitality, hoping to reel in economic benefits through tourism and global exposure.
Table 2: Cost of New Stadiums in Europe
|Cost (£ billion)
|Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Source: Club official websites and industry reports
📺 Media and Broadcasting: The Global Stage
The broadcasting rights for soccer are a goldmine, with immense sums involved. The Premier League, for example, sold its broadcasting rights for a staggering £9.2 billion over three seasons, a testament to the game’s global allure. But it’s not just about the economics; media rights shape everything from game schedules to rules, as the sport adapts to be more viewer-friendly.
🌐 The Digital Era: A Game-Changer
Digital platforms have broadened soccer’s horizons, allowing fans to stream games on-the-go and offering clubs new revenue avenues. The sport’s global reach is evident, with matches broadcasted in multiple languages across continents. This universal fan base is a significant contributor to clubs’ commercial revenues, fueling sales of merchandise and sponsorships. As the digital wave continues to swell, it’s reshaping fan engagement, opening new frontiers for clubs to explore and capitalize on.
Table 3: Financial Overview of Top Soccer Clubs (2021/22 Season)
|Matchday Revenue (€m)
|Broadcasting Revenue (€m)
|Commercial Revenue (€m)
|Total Revenue (€m)
📡 Media and Broadcasting: Connecting the World
The broadcasting rights for top soccer leagues are a significant source of revenue, with clubs negotiating lucrative deals for the rights to broadcast their games. These contracts are often worth billions, reflecting soccer’s immense popularity and global reach.
Digital platforms have revolutionized fan engagement. Clubs and leagues now offer streaming services, social media content, and mobile apps, providing fans with access to live games, highlights, and exclusive behind-the-scenes content. The rise of digital platforms has not only transformed how fans interact with the sport but also opened new revenue streams for clubs.
Table 3: Media and Broadcasting: Global Reach and Fan Engagement
|Domestic Broadcasting Deal (€ billion)
|International Broadcasting Deal (€ billion)
|Digital Engagement Strategy
|Comprehensive streaming services, social media content, mobile apps.
|Targeted international broadcasts, club-specific apps, and fan engagement platforms.
|Strategic partnerships with streaming platforms, enhanced digital content for international fans.
|Advanced digital platforms, interactive fan experiences, global social media presence.
|Focus on digital innovation, multi-language content, and immersive fan experiences.
|Major League Soccer
|Emphasis on digital growth, fan interaction through official apps, and social media strategies.