Betting on major European Soccer leagues

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Soccer, also known as the beautiful game, is a global monolith that rules over television audiences and advertising to a degree that’s unprecedented in the world of sports. Across its many leagues and competitions, the world of soccer brings in billions of viewers with some of the best, most eclectic talent from across the globe.

Listed below, you’ll find an introduction to six of the biggest soccer competitions in the world.

Champions League

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The UEFA Champions League is the highest level of excellence for European competition within continental Europe.

Created in 1992, no sporting competition in the world has been able to successfully reproduce the quality of talent on display while also growing the branding and marketing opportunities available to global companies looking to increase their brand awareness through meaningful interactions with fans and communities.

The final of this competition is watched by more people than the Olympics or even the World Cup Final and is seen as the pinnacle of the sport.

In terms of sheer numbers, more than 200 million people tuned into watch the 2018 edition of the tournament featuring a clash of iconic franchises when Real Madrid defeated Liverpool.

Champions League history

The current iteration of the Champions League was created in response to the former European Cup failing to provide an engaging sporting competition due to weaknesses in the tournaments format and the inability to include quality teams that were being shunned for league winners from smaller European nations.

 

This led UEFA to make radical changes to the tournament and rebrand the new competition as the UEFA Champions League. One of the key changes made was easing the restriction on team selections from the bigger leagues.

In its current form, the quality of competition on display and the annual income generated by the tournament has transformed

Competition format

Qualification

Earning entry into the UEFA Champions League is a long and arduous road for some teams while others are routinely being mocked for their lack of competition due to financial realities that separate teams within domestic leagues thereby creating a tiered structure that inhibits innovative exciting teams reaching the tournament.

In terms of qualification, this tiered structure is reflected in there only being 6 open qualifications spots with the other 26 places in the initial Group Stage reserved for top teams across Europe’s domestic leagues.

The 26 remaining entrants qualify on the basis of their success within their respective domestic leagues. Their final seeding and acceptance into the tournament depend on their domestic leagues UEFA coefficient which ranks the level of quality within a country’s domestic league.

In terms of the tournament layout, the Champions League begins in the summer when teams from the smaller European domestic leagues begin their campaigns in a Preliminary Round, before moving through the First, Second, and Third Qualifying Rounds which will have dwindled down the initial number of teams to 8. At this stage, four teams from domestic leagues with a higher UEFA coefficient than the initial pool will enter the tournament where the now 8 teams will compete in a Playoff Round where teams will be drawn against each other and compete in a home and away knockout tournament where the 6 winners will enter into the Group Stage.

Group stage

The now 32 teams are split into four pots. Pot 1 consists of the UEFA Champions League winners, the UEFA Europa League winners and the champions of the six highest-ranked nations. Pots 2 to 4 are determined by the UEFA coefficient.

Once separated into 8 groups of 4 teams, each team within a group will play each other twice, home and away, in a round-robin format that rewards a winner with 3 points and a draw with a point for each team. At the end of the Group Stage period, the two teams with the highest point total will proceed on in the tournament while the third place team from each group will drop down into the UEFA Europa League; the fourth placed teams in each group are eliminated from all European competition for the season.

Later stages

The Champions League continues with the Round of 16. Winners of the eight groups from the group stages play the runners-up with the matches decided again by draw. The winners and runners-up are separated into two pots, however, teams from the same country are still not allowed to play each other as well as the team from within their Group Stage group.

The Quarter-Final and Semi-Final are once again two-legged affairs with the final a single, 90-minute match (plus extra-time if necessary) in a stadium chosen a number of years in advance by UEFA.

The Quarter-Final and Semi-Final matches are decided by draws with the remaining 8 than 4 teams put together into the same pot. At this point of the tournament, teams are allowed to play teams from their domestic league. The home and away knockout styled affair continue with the matches taking place at stadiums across Europe.

Winners

The final is played at venue chosen by UEFA, usually determined years in advance. Since the inception of the tournament, only 13 teams have won the UEFA Champions League. The winners are listed below:

Team Year(s) Won
Real Madrid 2018, 2017, 2016, 2014, 2002, 2000, 1998
Barcelona 2015, 2011, 2009, 2006
Bayern Munich 2013, 2001
Chelsea 2012
Inter Milan 2010
Manchester United 2008, 1999
AC Milan 2007, 2003, 1994
Liverpool 2005
Porto 2004
Borussia Dortmund 1997
Juventus 1996
Ajax 1995
Marseille 1993

Premier League

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The Premier League is the most watched sporting competition and the most successful domestic soccer league in the world. More commonly known as the EPL, the Premier League is broadcasted in more than 200 countries with every matchday generating more than 5 billion impressions on social media.

Premier League history

The success of the Premier League is a remarkable achievement, especially when considering its sordid past that included waves of incidents from a soccer culture that thrived of hooliganism and experienced numerous tragic events such as the Hillsborough Disaster where fans were trampled and killed while attending a match.

A rebranding of the domestic league, the formerly known First Division was reinvented as the Premier League in 1992 with a format structure that added more teams and created an incentive structure that favored competition while amending the promotion and relegation system to allow promoted teams a better chance at competing when entering the league.

In the new Premier League era, Manchester United, the inaugural champions, are the divisions most successful club with 5 league titles.

Format

The Premier League is made up of 20 teams with the season running from August until May with breaks throughout for international fixtures. Each team in the division will play a home and away fixture against every club.

The team that accumulates the most points at the end of the season is crowned the champion and wins the league trophy. The second, third, and fourth places teams qualify for the UEFA Champions League while the fifth place team earns entry into the UEFA Europa League, a second tier European competition sanctioned by UEFA.

The bottom three teams of the league table are relegated to the English Championship, the second tier of the four professional leagues in England authorized by the countries football association. The top three teams from the second division are promoted to the Premier League for the following season.

Premier League finances

If you’re a soccer purist, the financial side of the Premier League has become a point of contention that has overshadow the competition on the field. The Premier League generates revenues in excess of $6 billion a year, with the majority coming from global sponsorships and the licensing of broadcast rights to TV networks around the world.

This has also led to a fan culture that is increasingly divided from clubs that initially began as community organization built on kinship and regional identities. To the cynical, teams are now the play things of the global elite while players are now considered divorced from the culture of the sport because of their earnings.

Success in Europe

Premier League teams have struggled to cement a foothold on European competition. With their domestic league so hotly contested and the financial success of clubs becoming paramount, teams have chosen to favor their domestic league by fielding weaker sides in European competition.

The Premier League has only three UEFA Champions League winners: Manchester United, Liverpool, and Chelsea.

In comparison to top clubs in Europe, such as Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, and PSG, Premier League teams face rigid defensive tactics and physical competition within their domestic league and struggle to manage the more technical, possession based soccer favored by other leagues.

Past Premier League winners

Only six clubs have ever won the Premier League. Listed below are the teams:

Team Years(s) Won
Manchester City 2018, 2014, 2012
Chelsea 2017, 2015, 2010, 2006, 2005
Leicester City 2016
Manchester United 2013, 2011, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2003, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1997, 1996, 1994, 1993
Arsenal 2004, 2002, 1998
Blackburn Rovers 1995

FA Cup

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The FA Cup, or the Football Association Challenge Cup, is England’s oldest soccer competition. A knockout style competition, the tournament is open to all professional and semi-professional clubs in the country.

FA Cup history

The game of soccer had only existed for eight years when the Football Association of England tasked a committee to oversee the creation of a tournament that would be contested by member clubs in a tournament that would award the winner the Challenge cup. The first FA Cup was awarded in 1872 to Wanderers FC.

Aside from suspensions for the First and Second World War, the FA Cup has been played every year since 1872.

In 1923, the Empire Stadium became the home for the FA Cup final. Renamed the Wembley Stadium, every final since than has been played in the venue except for a brief period between 2001 and 2006 when Wembley Stadium underwent construction forcing the final to Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.

Reopened in 2007, Wembley Stadium has an increased capacity of 90,000 seats and became the official home of England’s national soccer team. Chelsea were the inaugural winners of the FA Cup at the new venue.

Competition format

A 10-month long affair, the FA Cup begins in August with non-league (Semi-professional and Amateur) teams playing in the Preliminary Rounds.

In the eyes of pundits, the competition gets into full swing in November with the First Round featuring professional teams from League 1 and League 2, the two lowest levels of professional soccer in England, and the non-league teams that made it through the preliminary rounds.

As the tournament progresses, the Second Round features 40 teams with all of the fixtures randomly drawn. If the game is a draw, additional time and penalties are required for a replay at the away team’s stadium.

Premier League and Championship clubs enter the competition in the Third Round, bring the total number of teams up to 64.

The rest of the tournament follows the structure of the Third Round with Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Round culminate in the Semi-Finals played at Wembley during the third week of April. The FA Cup final is played a week after the Premier League season ends. The match is 90 minutes with extra time and penalties if required to determine the winner.

Succession

The winner of the FA Cup automatically qualifies for the following seasons UEFA Europa League, however, if the winning team has already qualified for the UEFA Champions Leagues through their league position, the Europa league spot is passed onto the runners-up of the competition.

Domestically, the winner of the FA Cup will play in the following seasons Community Shield. The Community Shield is a one-off championship match contested by the FA Cup winner and the reigning Premier League champion. If the FA Cup winner is the Premier League Champion, the runner-up in the league will take their places.

FA Cup Final

A national event, the final is played at Wembley Stadium and the match is presided over by a member of the British Royal family.

Records

The history of the FA Cup could fill mountains of books with historical statistics and endless moments of achievements, nevertheless, here’s a curated selection of some of the standout moments of the tournament:

Most wins: Arsenal (13 times between 1930 and 2017).
Most final appearances: Arsenal and Manchester United (20 each).
Most final defeats: Everton and Manchester United (8 each).
Most final appearances without winning: Leicester City (4 – 1949, 1961, 1963, 1969).

European Championships

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The UEFA European Championships, more colloquially known as the “Euros”, is an international men’s soccer championship of Europe organised by UEFA. Only open to countries in Europe, the tournament functions much like the FIFA World Cup.

History of the Euros

Initially conceived in the early 20s, political instability in Europe made it difficult to organize a continental tournament that wouldn’t add to the turmoil dictating the relationships between nations within the continent. It took another 30 years before the tournament was created with the inaugural tournament held in France in 1960.

Slowly growing in popularity, as European economies grew in power during the post war period, domestic leagues received investment and sports programs were nationalized furthering the development of soccer within Europe.

The 1996 edition of the tournament, Euro 96, was held in England and featured an expanded roster of participants with 16 teams competing for the prize. A more professionalized and broadcast friendly product, the tournament was a commercial success even with the host country bowing out in the semi-finals to the eventual winners Germany.

Four years on, the Netherlands and Belgium co-hosted the tournament, the first tournament to be held in two separate countries. This practice would go onto to influence many international sporting competitions including the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics.

The most recent tournament, Euro 2016, was the first to feature 24 teams and was the last to be held in a sole country. In the forthcoming editions of the tournament, matches will be held throughout Europe outside of an individual host nation.

Competition format

Expanded to 24 teams, the qualification process consists of a seeding system that draws teams against each other based on the national teams UEFA coefficient while utilizing a group stage system that rewards the winners and runners-up of each group with automatic entry into the tournament. Third placed teams enter into a draw and playout a knockout stage system that dwindles the remaining teams down to four successful entrants.

Succession

The winner of the European Championships earns a place at the FIFA Confederations Cup, an international tournament held every four years, and contested by eight teams made up of the winning nations of each individual confederation’s championship.

Past winners

The tournament has seen 11 winners, with a healthy variety of diversity in respect to the nations who have been crowned winners. You’ll find the list below:

Country Year(s) won
Portugal 2016
Spain 2012, 2008
Greece 2004
France 2000, 1984
Germany (incl West Germany) 1996, 1980, 1972
Denmark 1992
Netherlands 1988
Czechoslovakia 1976
Italy 1968
Spain 1964
Soviet Union 1960

Europa League

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The UEFA Europa League is an annual European men’s soccer competition that is open to eligible European clubs. Teams qualify for the competition based on their performance in their respective domestic leagues and cup competitions. Created in 1971, the tournament was created to accommodate European clubs that weren’t eligible for the UEFA Champions League.

Europa League history

In the wake of the Inter City Fairs Cup, UEFA realised that a second tier competition to the UEFA Champions League would be a successful endeavor with fans of smaller European clubs yearning for their teams to earn success outside of their domestic league and cup competition. The UEFA Cup, created in 1971, was a knockout competition with teams using a draw to determine fixtures with extra time and penalties available if required.

This format continued until 2009 when, after the success of the Champions League from 1992 onwards, UEFA decided that the format of using first a Group round-robin stage and then subsequent knockout rounds was to be used and so the new name of Europa League was introduced.

Competition format

Qualification

Like the Champions league, the Europa League utilizes UEFA coefficients, i.e. teams are ranked based on their individual success or the strength of their domestic league is quantified and a tiered system is created to award spots in the competition.

In domestic leagues with lower UEFA coefficients, generally, their runners-up and domestic cup competition winners will enter the tournament. In the case of domestic leagues with high UEFA coefficients, teams will send their highest placed teams that do not qualify for the Champions League.

Like the FA Cup, the Europa League starts early with a number of teams from smaller domestic leagues throughout Europe enter the Preliminary Round. The First, Second, and Third Qualifying rounds operate using a knockout format with a home and away fixture. Finally, the Play-Off Round will consist of the 36 teams that have made their way through the qualification process and 6 teams that have been knocked out of the UEFA Champions League during the Third Qualifying Round.

The winners of the fixtures from the playoff ties will join cup winners from various European domestic cup competition alongside the runners-up of domestic leagues and in the case of the top 4 leagues, teams that finish as low as eighth place in their domestic league are eligible to enter the drawing phase for the Group Stage of the Europa League.

Group stage

Teams are sorted into four pots of 12 with domestic champions and teams from the UEFA Champions League in Pot A with the rest of teams’ placement arranged by the UEFA coefficient. Groups are made up of 4 teams with the strength of each group a reflection of the results of the draw. Like the Champions League, teams from the same domestic league cannot face each other until the Quarter-Finals.

This process of draws will continue after every round until the Semi-Finals.

Later stages

The winners and runners-up of the Group Stage, in addition to the 8 third-placed teams from the Champions League Group Stage will enter a draw that follows the process detailed above. The Round of 16 is Knockout stage where teams will play a home and away fixture determined by a draw.

As mentioned above, the Quarter and Semi Finals will undertake the same process without the inclusion of further eliminated teams from the Champions League. The UEFA Europa League Final is played at a predetermined location, a neutral venue for both teams, and, if required, will feature additional time and penalties to decide the result.

Winners since 2000

It’s noteworthy to mention, but teams from Spain have been especially successful in the Europa League. Their possession based style and high tempo tactics are born out of a necessity to compete with the likes of Real Madrid and FC Barcelona in La Liga and domestic cup competitions. Listed below, a list of winners of the Europa League:

Team Year(s) won
Atletico Madrid 2018, 2012, 2010
Manchester United 2017
Sevilla 2016, 2015, 2014, 2007, 2006
Chelsea 2013
Porto 2011, 2003
Shakhtar Donetsk 2009
Zenit St Petersburg 2008
CSKA Moscow 2005
Valencia 2004
Feyenoord 2002
Liverpool 2001
Galatasaray 2000

Bundesliga

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The German Bundesliga is the highest level of professional soccer in Germany. The league consists of 18 teams led by the continental powerhouse FC Bayern Munich. The DFB-Pokal is the domestic cup competition open to teams in the Bundesliga and the lower professional division. The winner of the DFB-Pokal earns automatic entry into the UEFA Europa League Group Stage.

Bundesliga history

Professional soccer has existed in Germany since the early 1900’s, however, it experienced uneven development across the country which led to a concentration of talent in a few regions thereby disrupting the balance of the domestic league and undermining the competitiveness of matches.

The Bundesliga was created in 1963, a professional soccer league with the mandate of increasing the level of competition, professionalism, and standard of play throughout Germany. A wage structure was established with regional development clubs and youth academies that further developed the quality of talent within Germany.

Format

Initially only featuring 16 teams, the Bundesliga’s membership has grown to 18 teams with expansion slots fiercely opposed by the German soccer association in favor of competition and the protection of the league’s financial profitability.

The Bundesliga did increase to 20 teams for one season in 1991-92 after the fall of the Berlin Wall; professional teams in East Germany were fold into the German soccer pyramid. This period of transition lasted one season with the two former East German clubs dropping down to the 2. Bundesliga.

Fixtures are arranged by a home and away format with each team playing twice against each other for a total of 34 games. The champion of the league is decided by the team that ends the season with the most points placing them at the top of the league table. The winner will enter the UEFA Champions League group stage with the second, third, and fourth placed teams entering the qualifying phase. The fifth and sixth placed team have the opportunity to enter the UEFA Europa League alongside the DFB-Pokal winners.

Like other domestic leagues in Europe, the two bottom placed teams are relegated to the 2. Bundesliga, the second division of men’s professional soccer in Germany. The 16th placed team in the Bundesliga will enter a home and away playoff fixture against the third placed team in the 2. Bundesliga to determine the final slot in the Bundesliga.

Attendances

The Bundesliga is the best attended soccer league in the world. In particular, Borussia Dortmund, consistently sell out their stadium with an average 80,000 fans in attendance at their home fixtures. Moreover, because of the financial success of the league, teams are able to offer tickets at greatly reduced prices.

Bundesliga winners since 2000

FC Bayern Munich have won an unthinkable 13 league championships since the turn of the millennium. Outside of Bayern, only three other teams have won a league title since 2000. Listed below, the yearly winners since 2000:

Team Year(s) won
Bayern Munich 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2010, 2008, 2006, 2005, 2003, 2001, 2000
Borussia Dortmund 2012, 2011, 2002
VfL Wolfsburg 2009, 2007
Werder Bremen 2004