What Are Professional Soccer Leagues All About? How Hard Is It Really To Play In Them?

soccer leagues

I know we all want to play in the best soccer leagues in the world but do we really know enough about them to know if that's a reality?

Some late night fist pumps and double knee slides in our parents basements just isn't the same as being out there on the pitch.

Time to tackle (see what I did there?) the age old question of which league is the best in the world. Spain, Italy, England or another one we don't talk enough about like the South American or American soccer leagues?

Whichever you think is at the top find out all the information about each to make your choice once and for all even though your grandfather says he knows better than you.

Learn all about the best soccer leagues in the world and what it takes to play in them one day (even if you're reading this with chips all over the front of your shirt).

Top Leagues In The World Video Explanation

Top 5 Best Soccer Leagues In The World & Why

1. Premier League (England)

  • The league that is worth the most worldwide as well as being the most diverse from a player perspective.

2. La Liga (Spain)

  • La Liga has the two riches clubs in the world with Barcelona and Real Madrid.
  • Still the two most attractive teams to play for, a very close second to the Premier League in terms of worth, quality of teams and diversity of top players from top to bottom.

3. Serie A (Italy)

  • A very respected and high quality level of play. Most recently becoming one of the most competitive leagues in terms of title challengers.

4. Bundesliga (Germany)

  • Close to getting on the podium, fantastic league with many top players sold worldwide year after year.
  • Bayern Munich are still the giants of this league and amongst the best if not the best in the world.

5. Ligue 1 (France)

  • Known for selling young players to clubs around the world who eventually blow up as superstars after leaving France.
  • Why are these the best? Easy. Richest clubs, attract best players in the world, simple as that.
  • The best players in the world will always play where they can get the biggest contracts because in football your window in the spot light is tiny and shrinks each and every day.

Top 5 Up & Coming Leagues In The World

1. Major League Soccer (USA & Canada)

  • No surprise here the MLS has been coming for a handful of years now and is expanding teams and signing higher profile players every year.
  • Just a matter of time until it cracks the top 5 leagues in the world list. 

2. Campeonato Brasileiro (Brazil)

  • Brazilian players trying to make their way to super stardom, enough said.

3. Persha Liha (Ukraine)

  • Huh? That's right Ukraine! One of the most exciting and goal filled leagues in the world.

4. Argentine Primera Division (Argentina)

  • Boca and River not to mention the home of two of the top 3 greatest players ever to grace this game.

5. Canadian Premier League (Canada)

  • Not just hockey sticks and snow up there anymore, only started a couple years ago is becoming a platform for a hot bed of our sport.

Top 5 Things To Remember About Professional Soccer Leagues

1. Work your way up, it's okay to start in a lower division and see if you're good enough to work your way up.

2. This isn't just for fun anymore. Many of these players play to feed their families so there is no holding hands after a loss.

3. Europe is the top of the food chain.

4. Not all of them are as glamorous as you think. Some clubs don't even pay their players on time or at all, only a small majority of soccer leagues are what you see on TV.

5. Even your teammates aren't your friends at times. If you take someones spot don't except a pat on the back, they are trying to work their way up and get paid too, they don't need some foreigner coming in and taking money out of their pocket.

Professional Soccer Leagues I've Experienced

I was fortunate enough to play and go on trial all across the world from Europe (Serbia, Ireland, Croatia and England) to Asia (Malaysia).

The beauty is that I got to experience not only the on-field requirements and tests it takes but also the off-field criteria. Things like the politics, traditions and the team culture of all these nations.

If I was asked which is the best, in a word, Europe. The centre of football worldwide and by far has the best soccer leagues in the world, that's why anybody who's anybody on the world stage plays for a top flight club across the pond.

From my experiences in Europe, both teams I've played with and against there is no other continent right now that can rival what they do in terms of team play and quality of players, oh ya and the garbage truck full of cash they dump on some players driveways.

Whether it was Serbia, Ireland or England the best players in the world aspire to play and currently play in the 1st divisions all over Europe and that's why it is regarded as having the best soccer leagues in the world.

What Are 2nd & 3rd Division Soccer Leagues In Europe Like? How Do I Get There?

When I first got to Serbia I trained with a third division team until my first trial was locked in with a second division team and it was also a great experience. I realized that so much in football is perseverance and luck.

No doubt the best players play in the top division and on the best teams too but the difference between a third or second division player and a first division player isn't as big of a gap as you may think. In fact there are several lower league players who don't get the right bounces (no pun intended) to get to the top even though they are talented enough.

The second and third divisions in a nutshell are comprised of young hungry players trying to make a name for themselves in football and older players on their last legs who still love to play and are mentoring younger players.

The heart and passion played in the lower leagues is inspiring, these players are not only playing to one day make the first division but they are also playing for the paycheck and for their kids to eat.

When I had a team captain walk into the change room at halftime one game when we were up a goal screaming “next weekend is my daughters birthday, and she's getting a good present, don't be the one to take it out of her hands by (bleeping) it up” I knew soccer here was much more than just a game. Many games came with a bonus cheque so you can imagine the need to pile up wins whichever way a team can.

What Is Soccer Like In Asia?

First, the fans are pretty wild and they come in numbers, (lots of people in Asia? get outta town!) they are very passionate about their teams and foreigners are put under extra pressure because of their obligation to produce because of their high salary requirements.

I was on trial at first in Malaysia and the quality of the domestic players is not very high, but the competition to make the team as a foreign player is very high because these players are the highest paid and that attracts talent.

If you ever end up on a trial in Malaysia or thereabouts you will be on trial not to see if you are better then the players that are currently on the team (which there's a good chance you will be). But your main competition is the other foreigners that are trying to make the team. Best foreigner makes the team and that's all you'll be compared to.

Why don't they take all the foreigners if they're better than the current domestic players you ask? Well rules and regulations restrict that to keep football Asian dominant and keep their own developing at young ages all the way up.

I also got to experience the Malaysian second division and to be fair it's quite poor. I played with a 2nd division team as part of a training match (scored two goals, cough cough) but to be honest the quality was quite low. Not real polished pro's that could make an impact on a game and 90% of the players couldn't crack a starting line up on a top College team in North America from my experience there.

How Difficult Is It To Get Your Foot In The Door In These Soccer Leagues?

Difficult is an understatement to say the least. These leagues take players that are cream of the crop that have something to offer now and into the future.

If you're coming as a foreigner without a European passport to these countries you better be Ronaldinho's brother and the owners son to get one of the coveted foreign spots on the roster. Having and EU passport makes everything easier, you can then be judged based on your talent not your pay requirements or other legalities.

The answer is much more complex than a simple yes or no. So much of finding your way in any professional team is opportunity. Ya you have to be extremely talented and master of your craft but finding your way on to a team that lacks your position or is in need of what you provide is even more important than anything else.

Yes it's hard, if it were easy we'd all be playing in Europe and Asia and it wouldn't be your life's greatest accomplishment and joy if everybody hopped on a plane and signed a pro contract as soon as they landed. Hard yes, impossible? Never.

When I went to Europe (Serbia) It was a step up and the level was obviously very good but I felt confident I could play with them and I could. When we talk about the best of the best in Europe that's a whole other level that takes years of striving for to accomplish.

How Do These Leagues Compare To The MLS?
(Major League Soccer)

Well it's truly hard to say. People always want to compare leagues to the MLS so they can get a gage on how an MLS top team would fair in top leagues in Europe.

Some MLS teams can hold their own against the best but would never be in contention to win a top league in Europe, not even close.

But other less known first division countries in Europe they may have a more realistic shot at doing damage. The best MLS team would probably finish somewhere between 7th-13th in any top European league, meaning they would not be a serious threat to win the league or grab a champions league spot but also would escape relegation.

Are All Soccer Leagues Overseas Considered Professional?

No. Some times the perception that everywhere in Europe is professional and they're throwing bags of money at you every day can get young aspiring pro's in trouble.

There are several lower leagues in Europe that aren't professional and may only take care of the basic living costs and sometimes not even that. Some players want to go and play in these lower soccer leagues and get paid in rocks so they can tell their buddies back home that they played in Europe.

Put some time in researching where you're going so you know what you are getting yourself into.

Is There A Pay Difference Between The Different Professional Soccer Leagues?

God yes. To put it in perspective the Championship in England (2nd division, one under EPL) pays better than most first division European soccer leagues excluding of course Spain, Italy, France and Germany.

Higher the division, higher the wages (generally) we all know that but it also depends club to club in terms of financial backing and support from the city itself. Not every city can have Russian millionaire owners take over their club and give each player Lexus Helicopters every week, cough Man City, cough Chelsea.

If you're just starting out playing in a 2nd or 3rd division club in Europe you may only get a couple hundred euros a month and a place to stay. Sometimes depending on the club there are incentives for performance so that also makes the pay vary from every one of the soccer leagues across the professional world.