Like most sports, soccer is seasonal. This gives the teams and players a chance to recover from a hectic and physically intensive season.
However, each country’s season for a soccer league is different because competition organizers try to work around the seasonal weather changes throughout the year.
In North American countries, the soccer season runs from the spring to the fall of the same year. Although, many leagues across the world don’t follow this calendar for various reasons.
Let’s take a look at how different leagues around the world plan the calendar for their soccer season.
Major League Soccer Season
Major League Soccer (MLS) is the professional soccer league for the United States and parts of Canada. It usually starts in late February and ends in early October of the same year. This gives US soccer fans a straight seven-plus months of action. However, the MLS format is very different from most other leagues around the world.
Because the United States is such a large country, it makes more sense for the league to be split across two regional conferences; Eastern and Western. Every team starts off the season with a league stage, in which a regular soccer league format is followed. Teams get three points for every win, one point for a draw, and zero points for a loss.
During this period of the season, each team will play the other twice, once at home and once away. At the end of the league period, the top 7 teams in the Eastern and Western conferences go through to the playoffs. These 14 teams then compete in a single-elimination format to decide an eventual winner for the whole season.
In general, this format is not used in other countries. It is only used in MLS because the United States is such a large country.
European Soccer Seasons
Europe is relatively similar in size to the whole of the United States. However, because it is split into several countries, there are dozens of different European top-flight soccer leagues.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular European top-flight divisions.
English Premier League
This is the top-flight division in English soccer, though it also includes some teams from Wales, a neighboring country. The season for the English Premier League runs from August of one year to May of the next year.
20 teams participate in the league every season, with the teams in the bottom three being relegated to the Championship (the second division of English soccer). The English tier system comprises several divisions and gives every team the chance to fight their way from the bottom to the top.
Spanish La Liga
The tier system in Spain uses the same format as in England, giving teams a chance to be promoted to higher divisions if they perform well.
The calendar for the top division, currently known as La Liga Santander, runs from September one year to May the following year. Because the Spanish climate is generally very hot, this calendar avoids the hottest part of the year and allows players to avoid playing in some pretty unbearable conditions.
Italian Serie A
The Italian top division, known as Serie A, follows exactly the same format as La Liga in Spain. In both of these competitions, 20 teams will enter and play each other twice, following a regular league points format.
Again, in Serie A, the calendar runs from September through to May.
French Ligue 1
The French top tier follows a slightly different calendar from the ones we’ve looked at so far. The season will start in August and run until May.
The season can start a little earlier than in Spain and Italy because France is located further North, meaning it doesn’t get quite as hot during the month of August.
Finally, the top tier of German soccer follows a slightly different format from the other main leagues in Europe. Instead of 20 teams, only 18 enter, though they still plate each other twice.
Interestingly, though, the German Bundesliga has a scheduled break during the winter months to combat the cold. It’s not uncommon for Bundesliga matches to take palace with some light snow on the field, but there will still be a break around mid-December to mid-January.
This gives teams and fans the chance to enjoy their Christmas without worrying about traveling to matches or training in freezing cold weather.
The bane of many soccer fans is the international break when league competitions all take a break for players to represent their countries. These breaks happen periodically throughout the season and often only last a couple of weeks. The majority of international breaks are to hold friendlies between nations, though the others are made up of various international competitions and qualifying stages.
For example, the FIFA World Cup is held every four years, often in the Summer (except for the 2022 Qatar World Cup, which will be held in the fall and winter). Normally the competition takes place during the off-season period for most leagues, so this doesn’t cause a clash. However, the qualification process takes place sporadically throughout the regular season.
The same is true for continental tournaments like the European Championships (Europe) and Copa America (Americas). These also tend to happen every four years, alternating with the World Cup.
As you can see, the soccer calendar is chocked full of club and international competitions that all must be scheduled carefully by the organizing bodies involved.
Because there are so many competitions at the professional level these days, top players will often participate in as many as 40 or 50 matches every season.
Regardless of how many games they play in a year, the careful scheduling of the world’s soccer organizations means that everybody gets some kind of break to rest and recover.