What is Relegation in Soccer?

What is Relegation in Soccer?

What is relegation in soccer? Relegation occurs when a team gets demoted for being at the bottom of the league table at the end of the season. 

The idea of relegation in soccer might be complex for Americans to comprehend.

Major League Soccer (MLS) and other professional sports in the U.S. do not have a relegation and promotion system.

Fortunately, once it’s explained, I believe you’ll agree that understanding what relegation means isn’t too difficult and keeps things interesting.

What is the Relegation System?

Soccer Relegation and PromotionThe relegation system in soccer involves moving the bottom-placed clubs into a lower-level league for the next season.

Relegation serves to maintain league competition. No one team will get so far behind where they are considered “an easy win”. It also provides an opportunity for new clubs to make a name for themselves by entering into a higher league because they were promoted.

Relegation enables soccer clubs to face opponents with whom they are most equally matched. This is the case if teams are allowed to move up and down in divisions.

Although the system may initially seem unfair to the  relegated clubs, relegation is a necessary component of the soccer landscape in Europe and keeps the game exciting and competitive. This is especially true for the end of the season matches.

Why Is There No Relegation in the United States?

The idea of promotion and relegation in leagues is a key distinction between sports in Europe and North America.

In American professional sports (MLS, NFL, MLB and NBA), teams play each other season after season in static or locked leagues. This only changes if the league adds, removes or consolidates a team.

These professional teams will play a regular season in their respective sport and qualifying teams will proceed to compete in a playoff-style format for a championship. This repeats year-after-year and every team has an opportunity to compete for the same trophy.

On the other hand, Europe has a different way of running professional sports leagues especially football (soccer).

Each club must earn a spot in the top division. Every new team begins at the bottom of the rankings in the lowest league, regardless of who plays on the club or who owns the team. The club then advances to the top division by consistently winning its current league. A club is promoted and begins the next season in the league above when it finishes the current season at the top of its division.

According to this approach, it can take years for new team to float to the top of the table. Until they get promoted to the top league, players must regularly finish at the top of their league.

There is no guarantee that a club will stay in the top flight once they get there (due to relegation).

An Illustration of Soccer Relegation

The Premier League, one of Europe’s top professional leagues, is a notable example for relegation in soccer. There have been 35 clubs demoted from the Premier League since 1992. 64 clubs have been relegated thus far, and just ten of the 46 total teams have managed to stay up.

What Is the Opposite of Relegation?

When a team achieves promotion, it goes to the next level of competition in its league. This may happen when a club finishes first in its division in terms of points or wins its division’s standings. Each season, three clubs from the second level are promoted to the first.

Remember that there is no promotion or higher league after a club reaches the Premier League, the highest tier.

It is possible for teams to be promoted into the Premier League but not promoted from the Premier League. Once at the top, they may remain there, but there’s no other way to go except down.


Relegation in soccer is an important concept to understand. It is a system of demotion and promotion based on teams’ performance over a season.

Knowing how relegation works can not only help you understand which teams are playing each year and where they stand but also why matches at the top levels sometimes seem so much more important than those at the lower levels.

Relegation creates a sense of urgency for teams that need to perform if they want to continue in the highest divisions; this provides immense drama and excitement for soccer fans around the world.

Beau Bridges - Soccer Novo Hey 👋 I’m Beau. A proud Dad, former coach and soccer enthusiast. I continue to love the game of soccer today the same way I did when I was 7. I created soccernovo.com to share what I know about the game as well as provide a platform so other parents can learn more about youth soccer in the U.S.

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