For nearly 100 years, there has been a professional soccer league operating in France. Although it has changed names since its inception, it’s now called Ligue 1. Technically, it’s called Ligue 1 Uber Eats because nothing is safe from corporate sponsorship these days.
There are 20 teams that play in Ligue 1, and while it’s mostly associated with France, it’s actually a cross-border competition since the team AS Monaco plays in the league, as well. We’ll break down the structure of Ligue 1 and how many games take place in a Ligue 1 season.
How Many Games Are in a Ligue 1 Season? There are 380 total games in a Ligue 1 season. Each of the 20 teams in Ligue 1 plays every other team twice, meaning that each team will play 38 games every season.
The Number of Teams Determines the Number of Games
In its first season, the league (then known as National) had 20 clubs divided into two groups. At the end of its first season, six teams (the bottom three per group) were relegated down to Division 2.
In 1933-34, the remaining 14 teams played each other team twice, once home and once away. That’s how the structure has been since then, but the number of teams in the league has fluctuated.
There have been as many as 20 clubs participating over the years. The lowest number of clubs in the league was the 14 that played in the 1933-34 season. Currently, 20 teams participate. However, in the 2023-24 season, only 18 teams will participate.
This means that in 2023-24, each of the 18 teams will play 34 games (once home and once away against every other team) for a total of 306 games over the season.
Those Games Determine If They Continue to Play
In Ligue 1, like many other leagues, the teams are ranked in a points system. Teams receive three points for a win, one point for a draw, and zero points for a loss.
Over all of those games, the teams acquire points. A perfect season would be 114 since an undefeated team would play 38 games and get three points per game.
The Ligue 1 season starts in August and ends in late May, which means that there are only 2 off-season months, June to July.
The Top Two
Ligue 1 participates in the UEFA Champions League each year, and the top two teams in Ligue 1 get automatically qualified for the Champions League group stage. They will play an additional 6 games in the group stage. Of the four teams in each group, the top two advance to the knockout phase.
If a team from Ligue 1 was to make it all the way to the final of the UEFA Champions League after the group stage, they would have played an additional 4 games.
Therefore, within one season, a team could play up to 48 games between their Ligue 1 games and the subsequent route to the UEFA Champions League finals.
The team that comes in third on the Ligue 1 table is automatically entered into the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League. That means they would play an additional 2 games before they could advance into the group stage.
If a team made a run from third place in Ligue 1 to the final of the UEFA Champions League, they would have played 38 Ligue 1 games and 12 additional games in the UEFA Champions League, for a total of 50.
Fourth and Fifth Place
The fourth and fifth-ranked teams in Ligue 1 are entered into the Europa League group stage or Europa Conference League play-off round, respectively.
The fourth Ligue 1 team would play 6 additional games in their Europa League group stage, and if they made it to the final, they would play an additional 4 games. That would be a total of 10 extra games for a total of 48 games.
The Europa Conference League play-off round means that if a team was fifth in Ligue 1 and got to the final of the Europa Conference League, they would play 2 additional playoff games, 6 games in the group stage, and 4 games in the knockout round for a total of 12 extra games on top of their 38 Ligue 1 games.
Now, teams with success at the top end of the Ligue 1 table are rewarded by playing a lot more games against different competitors in some of the largest soccer tournaments in the world. The teams who sit in the middle of the table play their 38 games, but the teams at the bottom of the table face relegation.
This is a common practice in European soccer, and in Ligue 1, the bottom two teams automatically get kicked down to the next division. In the 2021-22 season, Metz and Bordeaux were both relegated, bringing in only 31 points each. Saint-Etienne had 32 points over the course of the season and had an opportunity for play in the relegation play-offs.
Just like the bottom two teams in Ligue 1 automatically get relegated, the top two teams in Ligue 2 automatically get promoted to Ligue 1. The third place team in Ligue 2 plays the third-from-bottom team in Ligue 1. These two teams play twice, and the aggregate winner plays in Ligue 1. The loser of the matchup plays in Ligue 2.
Therefore, the third-from-bottom Ligue 1 team will play their 38 regular-season games and 2 additional games in a bid to save themselves from relegation. They’ll play a total of 40 games over the season.
Since Ligue 1 plays a round-robin schedule, the number of games per season is determined by the number of teams participating.
Currently, there are 20 teams who play 38 games each in the regular season. The top teams get automatically entered into various tournaments, and if they go on to win, they could play up to 12 additional games.
The third-from-bottom team in Ligue 1 will play a total of 40 games, with their last two being the relegation play-off.
To compare these numbers of games to other top leagues around the world, check out one of these posts: