Promotion and Relegation Soccer: Laws of The Game

profile image
Written by Daniel Pena, Bachelors in Kinesiology and footballer: Learn More

Can you imagine working so hard all season long only to be dropped down to the lower league for being in the relegation zone? Unfortunately, that is a reality of the beautiful game that many professional players experience.

Most soccer leagues around the world follow the promotion and relegation system except for the United States which follows a fixed system. The fixed system is seen in all types of professional American sports such as the NFL, NBA, MLB, and of course Major League Soccer.

In this blog, I will explain everything you need to know about one of the most important and basic soccer rules around the world, promotion and relegation.

Relegation Soccer

Image by source

What is a Fixed League System?

A fixed league system is the opposite of the relegation system and this is what most professional sports leagues in the United States use. In this system, every team is owned by the league and to join the league business owners have to purchase a franchise. Sort of like having an exclusive membership to own part of the league.

For example, in the MLS, the MLS owns all of the teams and player contracts so when someone buys a franchise they are basically buying a part of the league. This means that the teams are not really competitors, yes they are still competing to win, but they are all technically business partners at the end of the day.

In a fixed league system there is no promotion and relegation which is why USL teams, the second division of professional soccer in the United States, cannot get promoted to the MLS.

Relegation Soccer

Image by source

What is Relegation and Promotion?

Picture this: every game is a high-stakes battle and every single point counts so much that one point in the league table can be the difference between staying in the league or dropping down to the lower league.

Most, if not all, European leagues follow this system, as well as other top professional leagues around the world. The most popular professional leagues that use the promotion and relegation systems are the English Premier League, La Liga, the Bundesliga, and Serie A.

In a relegation system, each club is their own identity and they are not owned by the league meaning they are able to make their way up to higher divisions even if they start at the lowest division of that country.

Depending on the league, in a promotion and relegation system, usually the top two to four teams will be promoted to the next league, unless they are already in the country’s best league, and the bottom two to three teams get dropped to the lower league.

Every country is different which is why there is no universal number for how many teams are promoted and relegated. Usually these top and bottom teams will have to go into play offs to decide who stays, gets relegated, or gets promoted.

When a team is relegated their main goal that season is to get promoted back to the league they came from and when a team gets promoted their main goal is to avoid relegation.

What are the consequences for relegated teams?

The relegation and promotion system may add excitement to the beautiful game, but it also adds a lot of sad moments. Getting relegated has a lot of consequences and sometimes it can take teams the next season and even the following season to recover from relegation.

  • Financial Losses
    • Loss of money due to broken sponsorship deals, TV deals, and more
  • Losing coaches and players
    • After relegation usually the club owners will have to make changes which involves getting rid of coaches and players
  • Mentally challenging
    • Going through relegation can be mentally challenging for players and can hurt a lot of player’s pride

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best teams to get relegated from the top league?

Throughout history, there have been a lot of great teams with star players to have been relegated into a lower division such as Juventus in 2005/2006 and Villareal in 2011/2012/

What are the best English Premier League Teams to have been relegated?

Some of the most popular English Premier League teams to have been relegated before include West Ham in 2002/2003 and Leeds 2003/2004.

How does relegation work in soccer?

The relegation system is division based and teams can either get promoted into the higher divisions or relegated to the lower divisions. The goal of this system is to make it to the top division of the country. Read this blog to find out more about how soccer teams in top leagues around the world can get relegated or promoted.


In conclusion, the promotion and relegation system is used in most areas around the world, except in the United States. This system makes every single match important and does not allow teams to slack off at any point of the season, no matter where they are on the table.

In this blog, I explained everything you need to know about the promotion and relegation system in soccer.

Similar Posts