Chinese football league system

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The Chinese football league system or league pyramid, refers to the hierarchically interconnected league system for the Chinese Football Association that currently consists of over 100 individual leagues having 2,221 teams, in a series of partially interconnected leagues that are bound together by the principle of promotion and relegation.[1] The top three professional levels contain one division each and have promotion and relegation between the leagues allowing for smaller clubs the hypothetical possibility of ultimately rising to the very top of the system.[2] The league system is separated below this point with no promotion or relegation for the semi-professional and amateur teams. The hierarchical system continues and levels have progressively more parallel divisions, which each cover progressively smaller geographic areas.[3]


The highest level of football in China is the Chinese Super League which was founded in 2004. In 2016, The Chinese Super League was declared by the seventh annual Global Sports Salaries Survey as the world's 12th highest-paying sports league in which 47 players — constituting the top 10% — claim more than 81% of the total pot of earnings.[4]The China League One and China League Two are currently the second and third divisions. The two worst teams from the Chinese Super League are replaced by the two best teams from the China League One at the end of each season.[2] The China League Two is conducted in two groups of 13 teams with the season culminating in a play-off. The finalists in the play-off replace the two worst teams in the China League Two. Teams may be relegated from the China League Two despite it being the lowest level professional league.

The China Amateur League is an amateur football league that includes 44 regional leagues. Teams in this league may be promoted if they meet the criteria for entrance to League Two.

Level League
1 Chinese Super League
16 clubs
relegate 2 teams
2 China League One
16 clubs
promote 2 teams, relegate 2 teams
3 China League Two
24 clubs, playing in two groups - 12 in Southern group and 12 in Northern group (2017 season)
promote 2 teams, ↓possible relegation 2 teams
4 China Amateur Football League
League Four includes 44 regional leagues. Most regional leagues have 2 divisions and some regionals have more than 2. Each regional league has at least 12 clubs at top level. Winners of each regional enter the national stage which plays in 2 (northern & southern) or 4 (northern, southern, western & eastern) groups. Top-8 clubs qualify for finals. 4 winners may be promoted.


  1. ^ "Country Info". Retrieved 29 August 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Chinese Super League". Football Top. Retrieved 8 May 2014. 
  3. ^ "Chinese tycoon Ai Yakang buys actress daughter Ai Ru a football team". The Australian. Retrieved 8 May 2014. 
  4. ^ Hodgart, Kenny (15 November 2016). "Chinese Super League is global sport's most 'star heavy'". Retrieved 16 November 2016. 

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