Few sports manage to transcend society in the way that soccer does, making it the most popular and participated in sport in the world.
With deep historical links to the UK, soccer has grown exponentially the world over, with hundreds of leagues and cups competed on a weekly basis.
Vying for the title as the best soccer league in the world isn’t something that is at the forefront of each competition but as generations of soccer players and teams have developed, experts and analysts have frequently debated the best soccer leagues on the planet.
Competitive leagues take place in all seven of the world’s inhabited continents, making the best soccer league in the world one of the hottest topics around and with more money and media exposure within the game than ever before, the best soccer league in the world is a debate that is sure to rumble on.
Here we attempt to breakdown the best soccer leagues in the world:
The European Big Hitters
Premier League – England
As mentioned, the game of soccer has a deep and rich history etched into English and UK culture and as a consequence, the English Premier League is arguably the biggest and best soccer league in the world.
Huge financial backing is made by investment companies all over the globe into the Premier League, with billions of fans tuning in to watch every game.
In a 38 game season, the side that finishes top of the table will be crowned champions, with the sides finishing 2nd to 4th qualifying for the UEFA Champions League in the following season.
The teams that end up 5th, 6th and 7th will all be entered into the UEFA Europa and/or Conference Leagues, testament to the pull and importance of the English game across the continent.
Down at the bottom, the sides that finish 18th, 19th and 20th in the table are all relegated into the English Championship – a division that is one of the best leagues in the world in its own right.
Manchester City are the current English Premier League champions, having won three titles in the last 4 years under Pep Guardiola and they are the benchmark for all the sides in the division currently.
Liverpool are their biggest contenders, having won the league for the first time in 30 years in 2020 – with Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal all having won the league in the past couple of decades.
The established elite in the Premier League are very rarely breached but unfancied Leicester City turned the form book on its head back in 2016 by winning the Premier League title, a result that only adds further weight to the theory that the English Premier League is the most competitive soccer competition on the planet.
La Liga – Spain
With the Spanish national team dominating the international soccer landscape from 2008 to 2012, the roots of success within the Spanish game still resonate in La Liga.
Two of the biggest sides in world soccer in Barcelona and Real Madrid spearhead La Liga on a global scale and the international coverage of the league is as comprehensive as any other major soccer league in the world.
Much like the aforementioned English Premier League, there is heavy financial backing in La Liga, with television and media commitments often dictating the schedules.
Often seen as a more technical league from an objective perspective, La Liga perhaps doesn’t possess the cut and thrust of other leagues but with high quality performers throughout the division, it is very easy on the eye and soccer purists often eulogize over the skill on display.
Barcelona and Real Madrid have ruled the roost in Spanish soccer for generations, but Atletico Madrid are hot on their heels, with the likes of Sevilla and Real Sociedad also starting to push for honors in the domestic game.
Much like the English Premier League, the top 4 sides in Spain progress to the Champions League competition, with spots in the Europa League and Conference League going to sides ending up between 5th and 7th.
Serie A – Italy
Homing the current European champions in the international sphere, Italy is another country littered with a rich soccer playing heritage.
Passion is top of the agenda in Serie A, with fans and players alike giving their all in the top league of Italian soccer and the league continues to attract some of the biggest names in the game.
Sides from the historically more affluent Northern cities in Italy have dominated the Serie A landscape historically, with Inter Milan, AC Milan, and Juventus very much the three sides to beat in Italian football.
Recent seasons however have seen other sides spring into the mix, with Lazio and Roma both operating out of the Italian capital, whilst Napoli have the majority of Italy’s south backing them to the hilt.
Another league offering 4 UEFA Champions League places and a raft of Europa and Conference League spots, Serie A continues to grow in notoriety the world over and it is showing no signs of slowing.
Bundesliga – Germany
Soccer is often described as a simple game and few soccer playing ideologies fulfill that prophecy more effectively than Germany.
The Bundesliga is a real breeding ground for soccer playing talent across Europe, with players developing a work ethic and structural understanding of soccer that perhaps isn’t as forthcoming in other countries.
Bayern Munich are the household team that ply their trade in the Bundesliga and their dominance on a national scale has been ongoing for generations.
The likes of Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen both lay a small claim to be able to compete with Bayern, but the reality remains that the Bundesliga can struggle for acclaim due to its one-sided nature.
That said, sides such as Borussia Monchengladbach, Schalke 04 and Eintracht Frankfurt have all enjoyed historical success, both in Germany and in Europe.
With only 18 sides in the division, avoiding relegation in the Bundesliga is at surface level an easier task but with two sides going down automatically and a third having to play a play-off against the third placed side in Bundesliga 2, it is often a hotly contested battle.
The Best of the Rest
Brazilian Serie A
When it comes to soccer-playing culture, arguably no country in the world embraces all of the nuances the game offers more so than Brazil.
Flair and skill are key features of the Brazilian Serie A, a league that has nurtured some of the very best players to have ever played the game.
Ranging from Brazilian legends such as Pele, though to modern-day greats like Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, soccer in Brazil remains inexplicably linked to the culture of the country and it is showing no signs of slowing.
Progression to the Copa Libertadores is the ultimate aim for sides operating in the Brazilian Serie A, which is the club showpiece in South America each year.
Giants of the game such as Atletico Mineiro, Flamengo and Palmeiras have dominated the Brazilian game for generations and continue to do so in the modern day sphere.
Santos, Corinthians, and Sao Paulo all get honorable mentions in the Brazilian soccer-playing back catalog and with a constant conveyor belt of sides and players continuing to come through, Brazilian soccer looks to be as strong now as it ever has been.
Primeira Liga – Portugal
Another packed breeding ground when it comes to manufacturing some of the biggest names in the world game is Portugal and the hugely competitive Primeira Liga.
With a deep history etched into the annals of the game, Portugal have historically always enjoyed strong national teams – exemplified by their run to the 2016 European Championships.
However, they didn’t historically enjoy the most competitive domestic league, with three sides completely dominating the landscape over the past century or so.
In recent times though, the Primeira Liga has gone from strength to strength, with superb performances domestically being backed up with strong showings in European competition too.
Benfica, Sporting Lisbon, and Porto are the three aforementioned sides that have enjoyed the majority of the running in the Primeira Liga over the years and whilst that hasn’t changed in terms of results, the standard of the league appears to be improving year in, year out.
Sides such as Braga, Maritimo and Boavista have all enjoyed forays into European competition(s) over the past decade or so and in general, the Primeira Liga looks to be as strong now as it ever has been.
Ligue 1 – France
When it comes to the biggest disconnect between the national team and the domestic top division, few countries can lay a glove on France and Ligue 1.
Since their World Cup win in 1998, France have been one of the principal dominant forces in world soccer, winning both European and World Cup trophies at regular intervals.
However, Ligue 1 continues to struggle for notoriety on a global scale, something which could be to do with the emergence of Paris Saint-Germain as a worldwide force.
Operating out of the French capital, PSG have been brazen in their attempts to ‘buy’ success and the sheer number of big players that have come through the door beggars belief.
Currently plying their trade for PSG are giants of modern soccer such as Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar Jr – to simply name a few.
Consequently, Ligue 1 isn’t recognised across the soccer playing fraternity as a particularly competitive division, with PSG able to operate on resources that most other sides could only dream of.
That said, they were pipped at the post by unfancied Lille in the title race last season and have endured another exit from the Champions League already this term.
Away from the circus of PSG, historically successful sides such as Marseille, Lyon and Monaco all continue to perform both in Ligue 1 and in Europe.
As a product, Ligue 1 does struggle for global attention but there are plenty of quality sides and players operating in France, which has a huge knock on effect on the national team.
Eredivisie – The Netherlands
The concept of ‘Total Football’ was born in the Netherlands in the 1970’s and 1980’s and whilst the division isn’t as dominant within European soccer as it once was, the Eredivisie continues to produce some incredible players and teams.
Johann Cruyff is arguably Dutch soccer’s greatest export, although legends of the game such as Marco van Basten and Dennis Bergkamp would surely challenge that.
For all their dominance and soccer playing beauty, the Dutch national team have only managed to win one major tournament in Euro 1988 but once again, they look to have created an exciting crop of talents looking ahead to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Whilst the Eredivisie cannot seem to hold on to its prize exports for too long, the league itself has lost none of its competitive edge and some of the teams in the division are etched into soccer playing folklore.
Ajax set the blueprint for how the game should be played back in the 1970’s and their doctrines are still being adhered to today.
Their principal rivals domestically come in the form of PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord, two more sides that carry plenty of weight across European soccer.
Elsewhere, the likes of AZ Alkmaar and FC Twente have also forged strong reputations for themselves and as a consequence, the Eredivisie looks to be making somewhat of a renaissance in the consciousness of soccer fans the world over.
Best Soccer League in the World?
Pinpointing the best soccer league in the world is no easy task, with so many influences and styles of play, impacting on both the aesthetic and competitive success of each team, in each league.
Whether it be the intensity of the English Premier League, the technical ability of Spain’s La Liga or the efficiency of the sides in Germany’s Bundesliga, soccer is a broad tapestry and with the game continually growing all over the planet, the best soccer league in the world debate looks set to rage on for generations to come.