Soccer, or football, is truly the world’s game. Billions of people around the world enjoy watching and playing the sport. Although it has taken some time, soccer is beginning to take hold in the United States as well. There are over 3 million registered youth soccer players in the states and Major League Soccer is gaining more recognition each year. High profile players such as Sebastian Giovinco, Didier Drogba, and Andrea Pirlo have made their way to America. Along with increased soccer involvement within the country comes a hightened interest in the sport abroad. Each year, more and more American viewers tune in to the big European leagues, such as La Liga and the Bundesliga. However, the English league stands out above the rest. All fans, even those just learning about soccer, are compelled by the drama and excitement that the English game provides. Here is the complete guide to the world’s most popular league, the Barclays Premier League.
England’s governing soccer body is the Football Association, or FA. Founded in 1863, it is the oldest soccer organization in the world. Like most national football associations, the FA organizes its teams into several tiers. At the top is the Premier League, which is followed by the Championship, League One, and League Two. The teams in these four tiers are fully professional. Below League Two, the tier system continues to the amateur ranks. Each league has a system of relegation and promotion. Throughout the season, teams are awarded points: 3 for a win, 1 for a draw, and 0 for a loss. At the end of the season, the top teams in terms of points move up a division and the bottom teams move down a division. Since the Premier League is the top division, the top teams are not promoted. Rather, the top four earn spots in the Champions League, Europe’s elite continental competition. Finishing fifth in the Premier League gives a team a spot in the Europa League, the second tier of European competition. The Premier League has had many dramatic finishes over the years, with teams fighting for relegation, European spots, and the Premier League title.
Originally, the FA First Division was the top tier of football in England. However, in 1992, with hooliganism on the rise and continental success decreasing, the First Division was replaced by the new FA Premier League. This change ushered in a new era of English soccer. Since the Premier League’s induction, formerly perennial powerhouses such as Leeds United, Derby County, and Nottingham Forest have lost their supremacy. Manchester United has been, by far, the most successful team in England domestically, with 13 titles in the Premier League era. Some of soccer’s greatest players have played in United’s red jersey. The likes of David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, Eric Cantona, Wayne Rooney, and Edwin Van der Sar have been a part of Manchester United’s Success. Chelsea are second in terms of premier League titles, with 4. Chelsea was inconsistent before the introduction of the Premier League, but success followed its 2003 purchase by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. Chelsea legends include Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, and Gianfranco Zola. Currently, the team is in a bit of a slump, but with young talents like Eden Hazard and Kurt Zouma, Chelsea is sure to bounce back in the coming years. Another successful team is Arsenal, which has won 3 Premier Leagues. Arsenal is the only team in Premier League history to have ever gone undefeated for an entire season. Their success was largely due to the talents of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp. Along with Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal, the “traditional” Premier League top four included Liverpool, as well. Liverpool has never won a Premier League title, but many of the best players in the world, such as Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez, have played for the team.
A recent development in the Premier League was the 2008 purchase of Manchester City by the Abu Dhabi United Group. This new ownership allowed the formerly unsuccessful club to sign world-class players like Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure. City has won two of the last four Premier League titles.
Rivalry games, or “derby games” play a huge part in the Premier League. There are several derbies throughout the year. Manchester United versus Manchester City is known as the Manchester Derby, Liverpool versus Everton is known as the Merseyside Derby, and the list continues on and on. Derby games are always heated matches that draw a lot of emotion from the fans.
Under the current Premier League system, matches are typically played on weekends, with the midweek usually being reserved for European competition. The season begins in August and a champion is crowned in May.
Now you are well on your way to becoming an expert fan of the Premier League. So get your afternoon tea and meat pie ready and watch the game!