What Is The Meaning Of Relegation In Soccer?

Norwich City Relegation In Soccer
NORWICH, ENGLAND – JULY 11: Max Aarons of Norwich City reacts at full time upon his team’s relegation following the Premier League match between Norwich City and West Ham United at Carrow Road on July 11, 2020 in Norwich, England. Football Stadiums around Europe remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in all fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

Soccer is played at many different levels. From soccer academies to amateur and professional levels, soccer teams are not all ranked equal.

By certain metrics, some teams are ranked higher or lower than others. 

Not all teams are considered eligible to partake in certain competitions.

For instance, almost all national teams may be eligible to participate in the FIFA World Cup, but not all would qualify, as teams have to engage in qualifying matches, wherein some teams will be eliminated.

The teams that emerge victorious in the qualification rounds would then be able to participate in the world cup finals.

When it comes to domestic leagues, there are hierarchies based on the soccer pyramid. The team’s current placement or rank in the pyramid determines the eligibility to participate at any level of the soccer pyramid. 

There are many ranking metrics used in soccer. 

These rankings are used to determine team placements across the various divisions of football in the country. 

The Football Pyramid

Most countries have their domestic leagues. These leagues are competed in by various teams vying for the league title. 

Teams across various divisions have to play each other throughout the active football season. 

These matches are often played at home and away.

In the U.S, for instance, there are various tiers of soccer in the American soccer pyramid, which are split into three divisions. 

  • Major League Soccer (MLS)
  • USL Championship (USLC) and USL League One (USL1)
  • National Independent Soccer Association (NISA) and MLS Next Pro (MLSNP)

Teams across the various leagues in Europe also play in different divisions. 

In English domestic football, the apex division is called The Premier League. There are many other lower divisions ranging from professional to amateur levels. 

While in Spain, the number one tier is the La Liga Santander.

In Italy, the top division is the Serie A; in France, it is the Ligue one; and in Germany, the paramount division is the Bundesliga. 

What is relegation in soccer?

Relegation is simply the transfer of teams from a higher division to a lower division if they finish at the bottom of the league or fail to meet certain qualification standards. 

The opposite of this is “promotion,” wherein teams that finish top of lower divisions will be promoted to higher divisions.

Leagues that employ the system of promotion and relegation are called “open leagues.” 

In the U.S.A, teams, and leagues are not linked by the promotion and relegation system. 

The league is overseen by the country’s top soccer governing body, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF). 

This governing body is responsible for sanctioning professional leagues. 

The leagues themselves are tasked with the admission and administration of individual teams. 

However, in most leagues in Europe, South America, Africa, and Asia, teams may be promoted or relegated depending on where they finish in their various leagues. 

How does relegation work? 

A specific number of teams are registered in a particular division. These teams play against each other in various fixtures across the season. Teams play matches in the home stadium and away. 

Teams across these various divisions amass points that determine their position in the league. 

Teams are usually awarded three (3) points for a win, one(1) point for a draw and zero (0) points for a loss. 

At the end of the soccer season, the team with the most points would be crowned as champions of the league. While the teams at the bottom may be relegated.

In the English Premier League, for instance, the bottom three teams are relegated to the Championships. 

While teams that finish at the bottom of the championship are relegated to League one, teams finishing at the bottom of League One are relegated to League 2, and so on. 

Teams that drop to lower divisions would have to play the new season in the lower division.

Teams may gain promotion back to the higher leagues if they are able to finish at the top. 

However, in Europe, winners of the apex competition are crowned as title holders, and the top four teams qualify for the next season’s Champions League football. While teams that finish in 5th and 6th qualify for the Europa League. 

Many other factors may contribute to teams being relegated or promoted. 

In cases of misdemeanors, points may be deducted from a team’s overall point tally. This can lead to teams being unable to accumulate enough points and may end up relegated. 

Why promotion and relegation in soccer are important?

One of the main reasons why relegation is good is that it gives teams the motivation to win games. Thereby making the league competitive, exciting and unpredictable.

It also gives them the incentive to acquire top soccer talents for their club, thus making the league attractive.

It also gives fans more reasons to be passionate about the league or club.

Norwich City Relegation In Soccer
NORWICH, ENGLAND – JULY 11: Max Aarons of Norwich City reacts at full time upon his team’s relegation following the Premier League match between Norwich City and West Ham United at Carrow Road on July 11, 2020 in Norwich (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

How many teams can be relegated?

The number of teams that play in a particular division varies across different leagues and divisions. 

Likewise, the number of teams that can be relegated also varies across different leagues and divisions. 

In the English Premier League, which is the top division in the English soccer pyramid, the three (3) bottom teams are relegated to the championship. 

Twenty (20) teams take part in the English Premier League. The three teams that finish with the lowest points are relegated. 

The same rules apply in the Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, Bundesliga, French Ligue, and many other leagues. 

Teams that play in the lower division may also be promoted via playoffs. 

What happens when bottom teams in a soccer league are tied on points?

Many other metrics are used to determine the position of teams in the division.

Besides points, teams are also ranked according to Goal differences, numbers of goals scored, numbers of goals conceded, head-to-head records, and fair play records. 

When teams are tied on points, the other metrics will be the deciding factors. 

These metrics have a certain order of importance. 

For instance, in the EPL, the next metric considered after the point tally is the goal difference, and after that number of goals scored and the number of goals conceded. 

In the Spanish La Liga head-to-head, records are considered above goal differences. 

Which soccer teams have never been relegated?

In the English Premier League, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool, Everton, Brighton, and Chelsea have never been relegated. While Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Athletic Bilbao have never been relegated from the Spanish La Liga. You can read our article on some European soccer clubs that have never been relegated.

Why do soccer teams avoid relegation?

Apart from leaving the top soccer division, soccer teams have many other reasons to dread being relegated.

Relegations can have a negative impact on teams in so many ways, such as a lesser viewership to less inflow of money. 

Lower divisions often do not attract as much viewership as higher divisions, which consequently means that lower divisions generate less money.  

Most top players play in the higher divisions. Also, most International fans only support elite teams that play in top divisions. 

How long does relegation last?

After a soccer team is relegated, they are to spend one year competing in the lower leagues. Within that period, they can fight to gain promotion back to the main league. If they are not able to do so, they will try again the following year m, and so on.

For example, newly-promoted EPL side Nottingham Forest Forest were relegated from the English Premier League in 1999 but returned to the Premier League for the first time in 23 years.

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