With professional leagues kicking off again after being shut down due to COVID-19, the United States is back to watching sports. However, for sports fans looking for something new to watch this fall, they can look to Europe.
European club soccer is often considered some of the best soccer in the world — where the most talented players go to play in the most competitive leagues with the most successful teams. But if you’re not familiar with how to get into it or how it works, it can all seem a bit daunting.
Each country has its own league, with some much more competitive than others. They all also run on a relegation system — at the end of the season, the bottom three teams from the main league are demoted to the second-best league in that country, and the three best from that one are promoted up. This adds an extra layer of anticipation to the end of each season.
Teams aren’t just confined to playing within their country, either. The top teams from across Europe play in qualifiers for the UEFA Champions League (UCL), a tournament for the best of the best. The official 32-team tournament runs from October through May and this year’s group stage begins Oct. 20. It can be watched in the U.S. through CBS All Access.
With so many countries and leagues to choose from, there are a few that stand out as the best.
England is home to the English Premier League, known affectionately as “The Prem.” This league is often considered the most competitive league in the world due to the high level of talent across the 20 teams. The championship is always anyone’s game, such as when Leicester City snatched the 2016 trophy after a 14th-place finish in 2015.
The players there are also some of the best in the world — Egypt’s Mohammad Salah, Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne and Argentina’s Sergio Aguero all belong to Premier League teams.
Salah and Liverpool FC won the 2019-20 championship with 99 points, a whole 18 above second-place Manchester City. The 2020-21 season kicks off Sept. 12 and will be broadcast on NBC and NBCSN.
Spain’s La Liga is one of the most well-known soccer leagues in the world because it’s home to one of the sport’s most intense rivalries: El Clásico. Not only are FC Barcelona and Real Madrid two of the most successful teams in international soccer, they also represent the fierce political tension between Catalonia and the Spanish capital.
La Liga is also home to Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, the Argentinian superstar often regarded as the greatest soccer player of all time.
Those aren’t the only two teams worth watching in Spain, though. Atlético Madrid and Sevilla FC have also won their share of trophies in the past few years, adding a bit more competition to the league. Atlético secured the UCL title for the 2015-16 season and Sevilla recently won the 2019-20 Europa League — the second-tier version of the UCL.
Real Madrid took home the La Liga trophy in the 2019-20 season, with FC Barcelona following just five points behind. The upcoming season begins Sept. 11 and will be broadcast on BeIN Sports Network.
Although the German Bundesliga doesn’t have much of a successful presence in European-wide tournaments, they aren’t completely out of the loop. FC Bayern won their 6th UCL title this summer when they won 1-0 over Paris Saint-Germain.
The Bundesliga is also known for having some of the best young talent in European soccer and is home to players like 20-year-old Erling Haaland of Borussia Dortmund — the first teenager to score 10 goals in their first Champions League season.
Bayern Munich won the Bundesliga title last season with 82 points, 13 points above rivals Borussia Dortmund. The 2020-21 season is scheduled to kick off Sept. 18 and will be broadcast on Fox Sports.