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FIFA Soccer
 


PROFESSIONAL SOCCER COMPETITIONS

There are two types of professional soccer competition in both men and women: 1). club teams and 2). national teams.  We cover men's soccer with this specific review.

Over 204 countries play soccer at the professional level.  Each of these countries are members of FIFA, the worldwide governing body of soccer. The most recognized soccer tournament of all is the FIFA World Cup, which determines the best country "National Team" (not club) in the world; followed by the UEFA Champions League which determines the best European club team and many would say the winner is the defacto best team, club or national, in the world.  In 2010 Inter-Milan won the UEFA Cup and the world title. 

CLUB TEAM COMPETITIONS

All the major countries have at least one professional soccer league consisting of their own local club teams. In England it is the Premier League aka Premiership with household names like Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Everton, Liverpool, etc... In Italy its Serie A League with teams like AC Milan, Inter-Milan, etc... In Spain the professional league is La Liga with clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona,  Villareal, Atletico, etc... In the US the league is MLS with clubs teams LA Galaxy, Columbus Crew, NY Red Bulls, etc... In South America there are many leagues with brand names like Boca Juniors, Caracus, Peñarol, Sao Paulo, Flamengo, etc....  Just about every country has a league. 

In Europe, UEFA represents the 50 national football associations of Europe; and hosts competitions for both club teams and national teams.   UEFA club team competition is through the UEFA Champions League which runs from July - May.  This is an invitation only league where the top club teams from each country's professional soccer league are invited to participate in a UEFA Champions League.  Clubs participating change annually depending who is in the finals of each country's professional soccer league.    The UEFA Cup tournament is held at the same time and is open to all the club teams from the Champions League.   The UEFA Super Cup pits winners of the UEFA Champions League against the winners of the UEFA Cup.  Most soccer professionals believe the UEFA Champions League crowns the "best team" in the world, whether club or national  team. 

England, a member of UEFA, has a professional soccer league called "Premier League" aka Premiership; and is sponsored by a Barclays Bank in 2008, so it is referred to as Barclays Premier League.  This league is the most elite of all professional leagues in the world and is owned by its 20 member clubs, whose membership is dependent on the performance of their football team in the league in any given year.  Teams include Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and 16 others.  It is elite because it draws the most elite players from around the world due to its ability to pay premium contracts. When it comes time to compete in national team competition, these foreign players leave the Barclays Premier League to join their native country team.   

Barclays Premier League club teams such as Manchester United, etc.. do not compete in the FIFA World Cup but rather their players are eligible to play for their country on their national team.  Club teams might consist of players from ten (10) countries so they each would break up and attempt to win a roster spot on their national team.  The FIFA World cup is held every four years...2018, 2014, 2010, 2006, 2002, 1998, etc... in different areas of the world acting as hosts.  The host countries earned the right to host by winning a bidding contest, much in the same was as the Olympic Committee decides on host countries.   It almost always results in several new soccer specific stadiums being built in close proximity to each other, which drives the adoption of soccer and increases revenue to FIFA in the year of the World Cup and in the years to follow.  

In South America, CONMEBOL (The South American Football Confederation) organizes both national team and club team competitions. There are ten (10) member countries each with their own professional soccer leagues. Outside of their own soccer league championships, club teams can compete in the CONMEBOL Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana, recognizing the best club teams.

In North and Central American and the Caribbean, CONCACAF represents the various national soccer associations and hosts competitions for both club and national teams.   CONCACAF "club team" competition is through the CONCACAF Champions League which runs from from August - April.  This is an invitation only league where the top club teams from each country's professional soccer league are invited to participate.  Clubs participating change annually depending who is in the finals of each country's professional soccer league.   

USA, a member of CONCACAF, has a professional league called Major League Soccer ("MLS").  MLS has limited the number of foreign players allowed on any team in the league, in an agreement with FIFA.

In all professional soccer leagues there is promotion and relegation. It is a process that takes place at the end of each season in which teams are transferred between divisions. The best-ranked teams in each division are promoted to the next-highest division, and at the same time the worst-ranked teams in the higher division are relegated lower divisions. Promotion and relegation is found in youth soccer in both tournaments and leagues throughout the world including the US.  It is a basic concept in most sports.

NATIONAL TEAM COMPETITIONS

National Team competitions overlap with the professional soccer league seasons.  Players are recruited from the club teams by each countries national team coaching staff and given permission to participate, by decree of FIFA, by their pro club teams.  Players usually play for their native country unless they have designated another country.  Most athletes who are invited participate because it is prestigious, televised worldwide and they hope to be selected for the FIFA World Cup team.  In addition, they are well paid for their efforts.  

The world champion national team is crowned every four years with the FIFA World Cup.  FIFA (pronounced "fee-fa"), Fédération Internationale de Football Association, is organized by continent including Africa (CAF), Asia (AFC), North and Central America and Caribbean (CONCACAF), South America (CONMEBOL), Oceania (OFC), and Europe (UEFA). Of the 204 teams which enter the FIFA World Cup competition when qualifying begins two years before the final round, all but 32 national teams will be eliminated.  The finals are held over two weeks in the summertime.  The FIFA 2008 champion was Italy and FIFA 2010 crowned Spain.

European national teams and their country specific associations are members of UEFA (pronounced "way-fa" or "u-way-fa"), Union of European Football Associations, for the purpose of sorting out which teams will enter the FIFA World Cup competition. The UEFA national team competition is called the UEFA European Championship ("Euro2012") and is held every four years in the even-numbered year between World Cup tournaments.  EU National Teams include Germany, Italy, England, Spain, Portugal, Russia, Holland, Turkey, Sweden, Switzerland, Czech, Croatia, etc... In all, 50 UEFA member associations compete.  The finals are held over two weeks in the summertime.

In South America, CONMEBOL (The South American Football Confederation) organizes both national team and club team competitions. There are ten (10) member countries.

In North and Central American and the Caribbean, CONCACAF organizes national team competitions. There are 40 member associations, one per country.

Separately, the Olympic games are held in late summer every four years.  The national teams of FIFA have the option of competing in qualifying rounds with the final 16 team directly competing in the Olympic games.  Argentina was crowned champion at both the Olympic 2008 and 2004 games.    The Olympic games are held about four weeks after the UEFA Euro games in late July.  The 2012 Olympic games host is London.

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