Spanish football league system

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The football league system in Spain consists of several leagues bound together hierarchically by promotion and relegation. The Spanish football federation allows reserve teams to compete in the main league system, as is the case in most of Europe. However, reserve teams are not allowed to compete in the same tier as their senior team, and no reserve team has thus competed in the top flight, Primera División.

Men[edit]

La Liga[edit]

La Liga is the highest level in the Spanish football league system and is operated by the Liga Nacional de Fútbol Profesional.

Other professional divisions[edit]

Segunda División, also called LaLiga SmartBank is the second highest level in the Spanish football league system and is also operated by the Liga Nacional de Fútbol Profesional.

Semi-professional divisions[edit]

The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) created a new tier to begin in the 2021–22 season placed between the Segunda División and the former Segunda División B which had been created in 1977.[1] The federation officially named the third tier, containing two regionalised groups, the Primera División RFEF.

Below the new Primera División RFEF sits the fourth tier, the Segunda División RFEF, roughly corresponding to the format of Segunda B, other than that the new format has five regionalised groups whereas the old system contained only four, other than in its final season, 2020–21, unique both due to the transition into the new system and complications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in Spain which led to more teams being included and a complicated format involving 10 localised leagues half the size of the usual groups, followed by 15 sections to determine which teams would go into the second, third, fourth and fifth levels.

Following the reorganisation, the Tercera División RFEF is the fifth highest level in the Spanish football league system[2] and is operated by the RFEF and 17 regional federations corresponding to each of the autonomous communities of Spain (there are 18 groups – Andalusia is divided into two due to its size). Prior to 2021, this was known as the Tercera División and was the fourth level, but had the same format. In 2020–21 the division also had an atypical format of 36 local subgroups followed by a total of 54 subgroups to allocate promotion, playoff and relegation places.

Lower divisions[edit]

From level 6, each of the 19 regional federations of RFEF run their regional league pyramid under their own jurisdiction.

Pyramid table[edit]

Level

League(s)/Division(s)

Professional Leagues

1

Primera División
(LaLiga Santander)
20 teams

↓↑ 3 teams

2

Segunda División
(LaLiga SmartBank)
22 teams

↓↑ 4 teams
Semi-Professional Leagues

3

Primera División RFEF
2 groups, 20 teams each

↓↑ 10 teams

4

Segunda División RFEF
5 groups, 18 teams each

↓↑ 27 teams

5

Tercera División RFEF
18 groups, 320 teams in total

↓↑ 27 teams
Non-Professional Leagues

6

1st Regional Division

7

2nd Regional Division

8

3rd Regional Division

9

4th Regional Division

10

5th Regional Division

Evolution of the Spanish league system[edit]

Tier\Years 1929 1929–34 1934–36 1936–39 1939–40 1940–77 1977–2021 since 2021
1 Primera División Civil War Primera División**
2 Segunda División Group A Segunda División Segunda División
3 Segunda División Group B 3ª División None* None* 3ª División Segunda División B 1ª División RFEF
4 None* None* Lower Tercera División 2ª División RFEF
5 Lower 3ª División RFEF
6 Lower
7
8
9
10

* From 1929 to 1940 the Spanish pyramid was similar to the Brazilian system, two simultaneous and independent pyramids, the national pyramid, and the regional pyramid.

**The Primera and Segunda was founded by the Royal Spanish Football Association, but since 1984 is operated by the Liga Nacional de Fútbol Profesional. Since 2015 the Primera División is commonly known as LigaSantander and the Segunda División is commonly known as Liga SmartBank for sponsorship reasons.

Women[edit]

Until 2021–22[edit]

Level

League

1

Primera División
(Liga Iberdrola)
16 teams

↓↑ 2 teams

2

Segunda División
2 groups, 16 teams each

↓↑ 6 teams

3

Primera Nacional
7 groups, 14 teams each

4

Regional leagues

From 2022–23[edit]

Level

League

1

Primera División
(Liga Iberdrola)
16 teams

↓↑ 2 teams

2

Segunda División
TBC teams

↓↑ TBC teams

3

Tercera División
TBC teams

↓↑ TBC teams

4

Primera Nacional
7 groups, 14 teams each

5

Regional leagues

Youth[edit]

Level

League

1

División de Honor
(7 groups)

2

Liga Nacional Juvenil
(21 groups)

3

Divisiones regionales

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Comunicado de la RFEF en relación con las competiciones no profesionales del fútbol español" [RFEF announcement in relation to the non-professional competitions in Spanish football] (in Spanish). RFEF. 6 May 2020. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
  2. ^ "La Federación desvela el misterio: La nueva Segunda B se denominará Primera División RFEF". ABC (in Spanish). 15 September 2020. Retrieved 18 September 2020.