World

When asked “what are the best football leagues in the world?”, the same 5 leagues are typically named. These 5 are the Premier League, the German Bundesliga, Spain’s La Liga, the top flight of Italy known as Serie A and the French Ligue 1. These 5 leagues have been the most successful leagues in terms of Champions League trophies and overall quality of football. These leagues contain the best players in the world and the best teams in the world. 

But what about the other leagues? There are many other leagues all around the world that hold just as much importance to their relevant fanbase. These leagues may not have as well-known teams and players, but the quality of football is still great. We will go over some of the greatest leagues in the world outside of the typical big 5. 

Some leagues that didn’t make it into our list but still produce some great talents and entertaining matches are the Brasileiro, Liga MX, Super Lig, Superliga, Scottish Premiership and the J1 League. 

Dutch Eredivisie

Founded in 1956, the Eredivisie is the highest football league in the Netherlands and is home to 18 professional clubs. Some notable teams in this league include Ajax, AZ Alkmaar, Feyenoord and PSV. Ajax are the team that has dominated the league with 36 titles to their name, PSV are 2nd with 24 titles, and Feyenoord are 3rd with 16. These clubs have not just performed well domestically but have also had success in Europe. The Eredivisie has had teams win the Champions League 6 times. 

The Eredivisie is a historic league that was once the best league in the world. This league has produced many top talents and helped shape football today as we know it. One player to come from the Eredivisie was Johan Cruyff. Johan Cruyff is widely considered one of the greatest football players and managers ever. He was an incredibly talented player who played for Ajax before moving to Barcelona. While managing, he created a style of play known as total football, which incentivised players to move around more freely, change positions and make short passes in order to maintain possession. This style was later adopted by the likes of Pep Guardiola and is now known as tiki-taka. This style of play changed football forever, and Cruyff’s influence can still be seen today. 

Netherlands National Team

The Netherlands national football team has represented the Netherlands since 1905 and has competed in many competitions since. They play their home games in the Johan Cruyff Arena and are currently managed by Ronald Koeman. The Netherlands has had some incredible players throughout the years, including Johan Cruyff, Seedorf, Marc Overmars, top goalscorer Robin Van Persie, Arjen Robben, Edwin van der Sar, and Wesley Sneijder. Despite having such incredibly talented squads, they have never won a World Cup and have won 1 European Championship. They have finished runners-up in the World Cup 3 times and are often referred to as the best team to never win the World Cup. 

Nowadays, they are captained by Virgil van Dijk, and their squad features players such as second-top goalscorer Memphis Depay, De Ligt, treble winner Nathan Ake, Wijnaldum, Frenkie De Jong and Cody Gakpo. They have a very strong squad and most recently made it to the Quarter-finals of the World Cup before being beaten by eventual winners, Argentina, on penalties. 

American MLS

The Major Soccer League, MLS, is the top men’s professional football league in the United States. The league is made up of 29 teams and is organised very differently from most European Leagues. The league is split into a West and East conference, with 15 in the Eastern Conference and 14 in the Western Conference. The team who manages to accrue the most points over the season from both leagues wins the Supporters Shield trophy. Furthermore, the top 9 teams from both leagues are entered into a knockout-style competition, and the winners of this competition are awarded the MLS Cup. 

The team to have won the most MLS Cups is LA Galaxy, which has 5, and second is DC United, with 4. The same order is applicable for the supporter’s shield; however, they both share the same amount with 4. The MLS has had some great players and many legends of the game, such as Carlos Vela, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, David Beckham, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets and even Johan Cruyff for a brief spell. The top goalscorer in this league is Chris Wondolowski, with 171 goals over a 16-year career in the MLS. 

USA National Team

The USA men’s national team, USMNT, represents the United States in international competitions such as the World Cup and the Concacaf. The USA national teams play their home games in various stadiums throughout the USA and are currently managed by Gregg Berhalter. The USA has also had some incredible players throughout their time, such as Cobi Jones, who has the most appearances, Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Jozy Altidore, and many more. The USA has qualified for 11 World Cups but has never made it further than the semi-final, which they achieved in 1930. Ever since that, they have, at best, made it to the quarter-finals. However, in the Concacaf Gold Cup, their luck is very different. They have largely dominated this competition, winning it 19/27 times, most recently winning it in 2021 and finishing in the semi-final in 2023.

Currently, they are captained by Christian Pulisic, and their squad features the likes of Matt Turner, Yedlin, Aaron Long, Jordan Morris, Zack Steffen, Tim Ream and Weston McKennie. The USA national team has a very likeable squad that dominates the North American competitions but has failed to impress in the World Cup in recent years. 

Belgian Pro League

The Belgian Pro League, otherwise known as the Jupiler Pro League for sponsorship reasons, is the top league in Belgium. This league has many top clubs, such as RSC Anderlecht, Club Brugge, R Union Saint-Gilloise and many more. The most recent winners of the Belgian Pro League were R Antwerp FC; however, Anderlecht is the team with the most titles currently, with 34. The Belgian Pro League also operates slightly differently from other leagues as at the end of the regular season, a Championship Play-off starts. This is a mini-season containing the top 6 clubs, with the winner of this being crowned Champions of Belgium. No club within Belgium has yet won a Champions League trophy. 

The Belgian Pro League has had many top players, such as top goalscorer Albert De Cleyn with 377 goals. Some other legends from this league include Joseph Mermans, Bernard Voorhoof, Arthur Ceuleers and Rik Coppens. Some more modern players to have come from this league include Toby Alderweirld, Jan Vertonghen, Skov Olsen and many more. A highly competitive league with passionate fans, the Belgian League has been steadily climbing the Fifa World League rankings for many years now. 

Belgium National Team

The Belgian national team has represented Belgium since 1904. They play their home games at the King Baudouin Stadium and are currently managed by Piet Erauw after taking over from Roberto Martinez, who underachieved with an incredibly strong Belgium team. Belgium has never won any International trophy despite having such a strong team. Throughout the years, they have had players such as Jan Vertinghen, Axel Witsel, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Bernard Voorhoof, Dries Mertens and many, many more. They finished 4th place in 1986 in the World Cup and finished runners-up in the European Championship in 1980. 

Most recently, their squad features players such as Thibaut Courtois, who is considered one of the best goalkeepers in the world right now, Yannick Carrasco, Thomas Meunier, treble winner Kevin De Bruyne, Thorgan Hazard, as well as other top players from around the world. They most recently finished 3rd in the 2018 World Cup. Belgium has struggled to get out of the group stage in most competitions despite having an incredible squad. From when Roberto Martinez took over, Belgium has consistently been one of the top national teams in the world according to FIFA’s official rankings. Yet they still haven’t been able to pick up any major silverware, which has been labelled a failure by many avid football fans. 

Portuguese Primeira Liga

The Portuguese Primeira Liga is the top professional football league in Portugal. It was founded in 1934 and is the birthplace of many great players and clubs. Excluding Belenenses and Boavista, the league has only been won by 3 clubs. These teams are Benfica, Porto and Sporting Lisbon. These 3 clubs are the biggest in Portugal, and the whole league operates around them. Most Portuguese football fans support one of these 3 clubs, which leads to small attendance for the rest of the clubs. This allows the gap to grow further and for these 3 clubs to dominate more. Benfica has won the title the most with 38, Porto is second with 30, and Sporting are 3rd with 19. These clubs also dominate the Portuguese cup competitions and have won the majority throughout their existence. Porto and Benfica have also been successful in Europe, both winning 2 Champions Leagues each. 

The Portuguese league has been home to many world-class players, including Eusebio, Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, Ruben Dias, top appearance holder Manuel Fernandes and all-time top goalscorer Fernando Peyroteo. In recent years, the Portuguese league have been fantastic at developing players and homegrown talents and selling them on for bigger fees. For example, Joao Felix was sold in 2019 for 126M euros; in 2022, Darwin Nunez was sold for 75M euros, and most recently, Enzo Fernandes was sold for 121M euros in January 2023. Many top-class players come from this league, such as James Rodriguez, Eder Militao, Luis Diaz and many more.

Portugal National Team

The Portugal national team has represented Portugal since 1921 and plays its home games at various stadiums across Portugal. Currently managed by Roberto Martinez, this national team has been somewhat successful in recent years. They have never won the World Cup but finished 3rd place in 1966. However, they were able to win the European Championship for the first time in 2016, beating France, who hosted the competition. 

Portugal has been home to many great players and legends of the game. Their most capped player and the highest goalscorer is none other than Cristiano Ronaldo. He is the current club captain and helped them win the Euros, which was their first major trophy; Other influential players include Luis Figo, Rui Costa, Pepe, and many more. 

Saudi Pro League

The Saudi Pro League was formed in 1976 and hasn’t been much of a popular league until very recently when the league bought many of the world’s best players. They managed to sign Cristiano Ronaldo to Al-Hilaal, and ever since many top players have joined the league. Some of these players include N’golo Kante, Karim Benzema, Eduoard Mendy, Ruben Neves, Brozovic, Firmino, Koulibaly, Milinkovic-Savic, and even Steven Gerrard has made a move over as a coach. The league is growing in size and in popularity as this transfer window continues. Al-Hilal is the most successful club, with 18 titles. 

Saudi Arabia National Team

Becoming a FIFA member in 1994, this is when they played their first World Cup. A fairly new national team, this team has only just come onto the scene but has not made much of an impact so far. Their best finish was in 1994 when they made their way to the round of 16. Most recently, in the 2022 world cup, they were able to beat Messi’s Argentina, who went on to win the World Cup. This victory was short-lived as they lost their two next games and were knocked out. However, the match and their squad were on display and drew attention to the nation. Despite not being successful in the World Cup, they have shined in the AFC Asian Cup, winning the competition 3 times, winning it back to back in 1984 and 1988. They have also won the Arab Cup twice. They won the competition back to back in 1998 and 2002.