As an American, the concept of relegation in soccer can be hard to understand. Most American sports, including Major League Soccer, don’t involve teams being relegated. Thankfully, once it’s explained, I think you’ll agree that the meaning of relegation isn’t too hard to understand.
In soccer, relegation means a team has dropped from their current league to an inferior league. A team is relegated when they finish the season at the bottom of the league. The relegated team starts the following season in a lower league.
Relegation is a huge deal for a team and can affect a team’s long-term future in many ways. In this article, I’ll show you:
- How relegation works
- What does it mean to get relegated
- What is the relegation zone
- and look at the pros and cons of relegation
What is Relegation?
Relegation in soccer is a system of transfering the lowest-ranked teams in a division at the end of a season down to a lower division for the next soccer season.
One significant difference between European and North American sport is the concept of promotion and relegation in league competition.
Most elite leagues in North American sports are static or closed, meaning the same teams play each other every season. This only changes if the league invites another team in or if one team leaves.
For examples of this, just consider the MLS, NFL, MLB, or the NBA. Each of these sports operates as a closed league consisting of elite teams.
In Europe, sports leagues operate with a different system. Every team has to earn their place in the top league.
It doesn’t matter who is in the team or who owns the team; every new team starts at the bottom of the rankings, in the lowest league. The team then works their way up to the top league by finishing at the top of their current league each season.
When a team ends the season at the top of the league they are in, they are promoted and start the next season in the league above.
Based on this system, it can take years for a new team to arrive at the top. They have to consistently finish at the top of their league season after season until they are promoted to the top league.
But once a team arrives at the top league, there is no guarantee that they will stay there. This is where the process of relegation comes into play.
Relegation is the process of transferring the lowest-ranked sports teams from one league to a lower league or division at the end of a season.See AlsoVârful Peleaga și Vârful Păpușa din Munții RetezatRetezat: Lacul Bucura - Vf. Peleaga - Vf. Păpușa - Porțile Închise. Circuit de o zi de la Cabana GențianaRetezat Mountains, Romania – glacial lakes, moraines and high peaksRecent morphodynamics of alpine lakes in Southern Carpathian Mountains using high-resolution optical imagery
To get relegated means a team will play the next season in a lower league or division than the one they are currently involved in.
Relegation is a real possibility for every team in a league.
It drives a team to do all they can to avoid being relegated. The possibility of relegation can inspire a team to compete to the best of their ability right up until the very last game of the season, but we’ll look at this in more detail in a moment.
First, let’s focus on how relegation works.
How Relegation Works
Relegation in soccer works by taking the lowest-ranked teams in a league at the end of a season and transferring them down to a lower-ranked league. These teams will then compete in a lower league for the following season.
Throughout a season, every soccer team competes to be the best team in the league. Every player wants to finish at the top.
But for many teams, the best they can do is avoid finishing at the bottom of the pile.
In a closed league such as the MLS, finishing the season at the bottom of the league has relatively few consequences. The team that finishes at the bottom returns year after year to continue competing in the same league.
But in a league, such as the English Premier League, where the lowest-ranked teams will be relegated, ending the season in last place has significant consequences.
As an example of how relegation works, let’s look at the English Premier League – the top soccer league in England andoften regarded as one of the best soccer leagues in the world.
English Premier League – An Example of Relegation
In the Premier League, 20 teams compete every season to be the best soccer team in the country. But over the course of a season, there will always be some teams that are just not good enough to keep up with the competition.
They will lose more games than the other teams, concede more goals and ultimately end up at the bottom of the league rankings after the last game of the season is played.
Premier League relegation works by taking the bottom three teams in the league at the end of a season and transferring them down to the English Football League Championship, the second-highest league in England. The three relegated teams will compete in the Championship for the duration of the following season.
In many ways, relegation in soccer is a way of saying to a team that they are no longer good enough to compete in the league they are currently in. Next season they must compete in a lower league with teams more similar to their abilities.
Check out my article – The Meaning of Relegation in the English Premier League: How it Works – for more info on this topic.
What Is the Relegation Zone?
The English Premier League is an example of a league that relegates the bottom three teams at the end of a season. Although most soccer leagues worldwide utilize a relegation system, the number of teams relegated at the end of a season can vary.
For an example of this, look at the table below showing seven of the highest-ranked soccer leagues in the world. Notice how many teams are relegated each season.
|League||Number of teams relegated|
|La Liga – Spain||3|
|Serie A – Italy||3|
|Bundesliga – Germany||2|
|Liga MX – Mexico||1|
|Brasileirao – Brazil||4|
|Argentine Primera – Argentina||4|
|Premier League – England||3|
Throughout a season, if teams are in a league position where they would be facing relegation if the season were to end, the fans refer to their team being in the relegation zone.
The relegation zone in a soccer league is the bottom section of the league table that consists of the teams who will be relegated if they finish the season in that position.
For example, the relegation zone in the Premier League consists of the three lowest-ranked teams.
The teams that end up in the relegation zone at the end of the season will be relegated.
Pros and Cons of Relegation
The majority of leagues outside of North America use a promotion and relegation system based on teams reaching the top leagues based on merit. Teams work hard to earn and maintain their place at the top.
It’s very doubtful that a closed system model would ever catch on in Europe. And to prove this point, a selection of teams recently attempted to start a closed league based on the North American model. They called it the European Super League.
But within hours of the announcement, the players, coaches, and fans were in uproar. The sense of shock and animosity to the idea was palpable across Europe. With 48 hours, it was clear it was going to collapse, and teams were already pulling out.
But as with anything in life, there are advantages and disadvantages to any system.
Pro’s of Using Relegation in Soccer
One of the most significant benefits of using promotion and relegation is that teams keep competing until the last day of the season.
Too often in North American sports, we see teams tanking at the end of the season when they know they have nothing else to play for.
When a team has to fight hard to avoid being relegated, you get to witness some fantastic and competitive games from beginning to end of a season.
Avoiding relegation gives a team a strong incentive to improve.
It can be too easy for a team to settle for just being OK in a closed league system. The team knows they won’t lose their position in the league no matter how well or poorly they perform.
For a team battling to avoid relegation, there is a strong incentive every year to invest in the team and improve their performance as much as possible.
A system of promotion and relegation allows new teams to enter the league each year.
Having new teams entering a league adds freshness and new excitement to a competition. It can be easy for a league to become stale with no new teams.
And who doesn’t love the excitement of a small team working their way up the leagues and finding themselves promoted to the top league with an opportunity to compete against the best teams in the country?!
Cons of Using Relegation
Having listed the advantages of using a relegation system, it’s important to acknowledge that there are also disadvantages.
Most significant is that relegation causes substantial financial problems for a team.
If a team has been competing in the elite league for several years, they will have a financial structure that reflects the income received at that level. It is common fora relegated team’s revenue to drop dramaticallyfrom one year to the next as they compete in a lower quality league.
Some leagues such as the Premier League do aim to minimize the impact of relegation on a team by offering“parachute payments”to help financially support a relegated team.
Another reason relegation can harm a league is that a team can be relegated for just having one bad year.
All teams struggle at times. Whether it’s because of poor coaching, injuries to players, or outside influences, some seasons are just worse than others.
A system of relegation puts these teams at risk of losing their position in the league because of one bad year. As I mentioned in the previous point, relegation can be disastrous for a team, and they may never bounce back.
Relegation is a mainstay of most soccer leagues worldwide. Hopefully, this article has helped you discover more of what it means and how it works.
For more helpful information about soccer, I recommend you check out one of my recent articles:
- What is a Cap in Soccer?
- What is a Brace in Soccer?
- What is a Soccer Pitch?
Understanding Relegation in Soccer: What Does It Mean? | Your Soccer Home? ›
In soccer, relegation is when you are demoted to the division below the one you are currently competing in. This happens when you finish the season in the relegation zone, which is a specific zone of usually 2-4 teams at the bottom of the table.What does relegation mean in soccer? ›
In a system of promotion and relegation, the best-ranked team(s) in the lower division are promoted to the higher division for the next season, and the worst-ranked team(s) in the higher division are relegated to the lower division for the next season.What does Regelation mean in soccer? ›
Relegation is the system in the Premier League by which the unfortunate three teams with the lowest amount of points at the end of the season drop down from England's top flight to the second-tier division before a new season begins.What happens if you get relegated in soccer? ›
Relegation in soccer works by taking the lowest-ranked teams in a league at the end of a season and transferring them down to a lower-ranked league. These teams will then compete in a lower league for the following season.What does final relegation mean? ›
the act of moving a football team to a lower division: Southampton face relegation if they lose again. After losing their last three home games, they are now facing a relegation battle. Football/soccer.What does relegation status mean? ›
to put someone or something into a lower or less important rank or position: She resigned when she was relegated to a desk job.How many teams can get relegated? ›
Premier League (level 1, 20 teams): The bottom three teams are relegated. English Football League Championship (level 2, 24 teams): Top two automatically promoted; next four compete in the play-offs, with the winner gaining the third promotion spot. The bottom three are relegated.What does P mean in soccer score? ›
-GK = Goal Kicks By Athlete. -GTh = Goalkeeper Throws. -P = Goalkeeper Punts.How does relegation work in Championship? ›
At the end of the season, the top two teams and the winner of the Championship play-offs are promoted to the Premier League and the bottom three teams are relegated to Football League One.Has Real Madrid been relegated? ›
Real Madrid is one of three founding members of the Primera División that have never been relegated from the top division, along with Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona.
How many points do you need to not get relegated? ›
How many points to avoid relegation in 2023? The 40-point bar to secure safety has reached mythical status in the football lexicon, largely because it's a nice round number that's easy to remember.Can a team come back from relegation? ›
Since the Premier League began in 1992, 79 teams have been relegated and only 21 have come back up the next season (one in every three). Fourteen of these teams did so in the automatic promotion places. It is very much a case of the sooner the better for relegated teams.Do you get money for being relegated? ›
Relegated clubs will receive 55 per cent of the equal share of broadcast revenue paid to Premier League clubs in the first year after relegation, 45 per cent the following year and 20 per cent in year three.Which team never go to relegation? ›
Everton are one of six English clubs who have never been relegated from the Premier League since its creation in 1992. The others are Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham and Chelsea, so they are part of an elite group.What happens after a team is relegated? ›
Mostly when a Club is relegated they are to play in the lower tier for the season . To play again the Main League they have to win the Championship . Same goes for the different Leagues all over the World . the Top 3 Team in the First tier are promoted to play in the League for the season .How many are relegated from Championship? ›
How many EFL teams get promoted? In the Premier League, three teams are relegated every season. In the Championship, three teams get relegated, and three get promoted every season, with the top two an automatic place and the winner of the third-sixth place playoff, given the third promotion spot.How often do relegated teams get promoted? ›
Only about 20% of teams get promoted in their first season, whilst it takes on average 2.5 seasons to get promoted again after relegation. Therefore, fans should consider tapering their expectations should they drop down into lower leagues.
relegate. / (ˈrɛlɪˌɡeɪt) / verb (tr) to move to a position of less authority, importance, etc; demote. (usually passive) mainly British to demote (a football team, etc) to a lower division.What does relegated game mean? ›
If a football team is relegated, it is moved down to a lower division: If Southampton lose again they may be relegated from the Premier League to the First Division. Compare. promote (RAISE)Which footballer has been relegated the most? ›
Hermann Hreidarsson has more than 330 Premier League appearances to his name, along with an FA Cup winners' medal and 15 years of experience in English football, but also holds the unfortunate honour of knowing that no player in history has suffered relegation out of the top tier on more occasions than he has.
Which teams are most likely to be relegated? ›
The Hammers went down in 2002/03 despite totalling 42 points, the highest total for a relegated side. Only two other teams have finished in the bottom three with 40 points: Sunderland, in 1996/97, and Bolton Wanderers, in the next campaign.What does OG mean in soccer? ›
In association football, an own goal occurs when a player causes the ball to go into their own team's goal, resulting in a goal being scored for the opposition.What are scores called in soccer? ›
GOAL – A one point score occurring when the whole of the ball passes entirely over the goal line, between the vertical goal posts and under the horizontal crossbar. GOAL AREA – A rectangular area extending from the goal line. Used to designate where goal kicks are taken.What does FS mean in soccer stats? ›
Fouls Sustained (FS) Fouls sustained by a player leading to a free kick for his/her team. Fouls Committed (FC) Fouls committed by a player leading to a free kick for the opposite team.What happens if both teams have same points? ›
If both the points and goal difference is the same, then FIFA defers to the just the goals scored. Whomever has scored the most, finishes higher in the group.Has a champion ever been relegated? ›
Overview. Manchester City became the only team to have been relegated in the season after winning the league title as well as the only team to ever be relegated from the top tier of English football having scored the most goals in that particular season.What happens if a team wins the Champions League and gets relegated? ›
Winning the CL will grant the team next season's group level ticket. Getting relegated means that. Lower division next season. Again they will need promotion back to top level and meet the ranking to participate in CL after next season.Have Manchester United ever been relegated? ›
After spending just one season in the Second Division, Manchester United were promoted back to the top flight in 1975 as champions. Manchester United have been relegated on four other occasions prior to the 1970s: 1894, 1922, 1931 and 1937.Is Arsenal ever relegated? ›
Did you know? Arsenal have not been relegated since they last entered the top flight in 1919.
Has Barcelona ever gone on relegation? ›
Barcelona and Real Madrid have never been relegated from La Liga, in the near-century history of the competition.Have all 3 promoted teams ever been relegated? ›
The only exceptions, in which all three promoted teams survived, were the 2001–02, 2011–12, and 2017–18 seasons.What is the minimum points to stay in the Premier League? ›
In fact since 2000, 37 points have been enough to retain Premier League status on all but four occasions. This season, 37 points is right around where the bar is likely to be, given how close the battle is and how many teams are involved.Has a team ever been relegated on goal difference? ›
"Manchester City completed an awesome double in 1937-38," says Ian Kay. "Not only did they become the only team ever to be relegated with a positive goal difference, they also became the only team ever to be relegated the year after being champions.Where do Premier League teams go after relegation? ›
Those teams are replaced by three clubs promoted from the Championship; the sides that finish in first and second place and the third via the end-of-season playoffs.Who is moving up to Premier League? ›
Burnley confirmed promotion to the Premier League on April 7, and Sheffield United could be close behind them as the Blades can clinch on April 26.Has anyone never been relegated? ›
Since the establishment of the Premier League as the successor-competition to the English First Division in 1992, only a small number of clubs can claim never to have been relegated from the league. They are: Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool, Everton and Chelsea.How much does a team get when promoted to Premier League? ›
In 2021/22 each club received equal shares for 50% of the domestic TV deal £31.8m, overseas TV £48.9m and commercial income £6.8m. Each match broadcast live was worth £0.9m (on top of £11.0m for a minimum of 10 games), while each league position was worth £2.1m (merit payment - domestic £1.7m plus overseas £0.4m).How much does it cost to stay in Premier League? ›
The general assumption is that 40 points is the magic number to aim for in order to ensure your survival. However, throughout much of the Premier League's existence, the 40 point mark was often not needed to secure saftey.Why don't American teams have relegation? ›
There is no promotion or relegation system in place in US soccer. There is not enough financial security or fan support to implement such a system yet. However, many teams often get created and added to the different tiers. Just this past year Atlanta United joined the MLS.
When was Liverpool last relegated? ›
Relegated in the 1953–54 season, they did not regain their place in the First Division until the 1962–63 season under the management of Bill Shankly. Liverpool first participated in European competition during the 1964–65 season, a season which represented Liverpool's first FA Cup triumph.What was the Premier League called before? ›
Definition: Formed in February 20, 1992, the English Premier League was created by clubs in the Football League First Division. From 1993 to 2001, the league was called as the FA Carling Premiership. Barclaycard took over in 2001 and since then it is known as the Barclays Premier League.How does a team get out of relegation? ›
In order for a relegated team to be promoted back up into the top flight, that club must either win its division or win its division playoffs. Those are the only two avenues for club promotion.What is the relegation zone in soccer? ›
the part of a soccer division consisting of the three teams with the lowest number of points who will go down to a lower division if they stay in one of those positions.How many teams are relegated each year? ›
The short version is that at the end of each season, the top three teams in each league go up a league for the next season, and the bottom three drop down a league.Which team has been in the Championship the longest? ›
Promotion for Coventry would break the record for the longest spell between Premier League appearances, currently held by Leeds United who spent 16 seasons in the Championship and League One before returning to the top flight in 2020/21.What league is below the Premier League? ›
The National League is the lowest of the five nationwide professional football divisions in England, below the Premier League and the three divisions of the EFL, and is the top tier of the National League System of non-League football.Has Manchester United been relegated? ›
Manchester United were last relegated from the top flight in the 1973-74 season, but they rebounded straight away and have been a part of the top table since the 1975-76 season.Has Man City been relegated? ›
The club were twice relegated from the top flight in the 1980s (in 1983 and 1987), but returned to the top flight again in 1989 and finished fifth in 1991 and 1992 under the management of Peter Reid. However, this was only a temporary respite, and following Reid's departure Manchester City's fortunes continued to fade.What happens when a Premier League team gets relegated? ›
This is called being promoted. If a team is relegated, it will play in the competition below for the next season. It will have to spend that season fighting to win promotion to get back up into the Premier League for the following year, which isn't easy.
Who are the only teams never to be relegated? ›
Since the establishment of the Premier League as the successor-competition to the English First Division in 1992, only a small number of clubs can claim never to have been relegated from the league. They are: Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool, Everton and Chelsea.Which Premier teams have never been relegated? ›
Everton are one of six English clubs who have never been relegated from the Premier League since its creation in 1992. The others are Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham and Chelsea, so they are part of an elite group.Did Arsenal ever relegated? ›
Did you know? Arsenal have not been relegated since they last entered the top flight in 1919.Did Barcelona ever relegated? ›
La Liga, the top Spanish football league, was formed in 1929, and Barcelona captured the title in the league's inaugural season. The club has won La Liga 26 times and has never been relegated to a lower division.Which teams have never been relegated in Europe? ›
|Club||First year of spell||Competition(s)|
|Athletic Bilbao||1929||Primera División (93 seasons in total)|
|Real Madrid CF|
Manchester United have won twenty titles, the most of any club. United's rivals Liverpool are second with nineteen.What is the oldest club in football? ›
Cambridge University claim to be the oldest football club in the world, as the Football Association awarded them with a plaque in 2006 in honor of their 150th anniversary, giving official recognition to the foundation date of the club in 1856.Was Chelsea ever relegated? ›
Has Chelsea been relegated before? Chelsea has not suffered relegation since the start of the Premier League in 1992. But, the club did get relegated from top-flight English football in the 1987-88 season.How much money do you get if you get relegated from the Premier League? ›
Parachute payments for relegated clubs
Relegated clubs will receive 55 per cent of the equal share of broadcast revenue paid to Premier League clubs in the first year after relegation, 45 per cent the following year and 20 per cent in year three.
Promotion to the Premier League is estimated to be worth over $200 million for each club with parachute payments (funds distributed by PL to relegated clubs to help soften the blow of the financial losses) over the next three seasons if they're relegated straight back to the second-tier.
Has a team ever won the league then been relegated? ›
Manchester City became the only team to have been relegated in the season after winning the league title as well as the only team to ever be relegated from the top tier of English football having scored the most goals in that particular season.