Huge Chicharito and Dos Santos fan! -- I want to learn more!
June 27, 2011 5:34 AM   Subscribe

As a new futbol/football fan, what do I need to know about the different leagues? (esp. ManU!) -details enclosed

So I usually always just follow the World Cups.. but after a few Chicago Fire matches, the Gold Cup and my desire to follow Manchester United.. I want to learn more about all the different leagues and competitions. So my questions :

- What international tournaments are the best to follow?
- Should I watch friendlies? Where would I find a friendlies schedule?
- What league does ManU play in and when do they start play (I got confused on their schedule when I looked it up on their website : ( )
- In Europe, does each country have their own leagues that compete against each other then there is an overall European league?
- What else should I know?

Thanks for your help! Sorry for being such a noob! : )
posted by xicana63 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
There'll be lots more useful info to come, I'm sure, but here's a little bit.

Manchester United play in the English Premier League. Manchester is a city in England. It's probably the most prestigious, or at least the most lucrative league in the world. The prominent teams change over time - there's a list of them here:

There are lots of historic rivalries between various teams. I'll just note that people are very, very possessive over their favourite team and leave it at that.
posted by Magnakai at 6:20 AM on June 27, 2011

- The World Cup and the European Championships.
- No, they're a complete waste of time.
- English Premier League.
- Yes every country has it own league system and for the most successful clubs there are several European club competitions including the Champions League - which is actually a knock out cup in the latter stages.
- Never say 'futbol' ever again.
posted by joannemullen at 6:29 AM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Each country has its own "A" league. The best club teams from this league enter into the Champions League tournament which comprises teams from all over europe. These Champions League games take place throughout the season, generally on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Domestic league games generally take place on Saturdays and Sundays.

The most popular domestic league in the world is England's Premier League, where Man U play. Spains La Liga, Italy's Seria A and Germany's Bundisliga are also quite popular.

People will have a lot of debates regarding whether Champions League or domestic league play is more exciting or important. People will also have preferences in terms among the styles of play prevalent among the different domestic leagues.

In addition to Champions League, there are domestic cups in each country, which have a tournament format as opposed to the table format of the domestic leagues. Going into these cups will just overwhelm you at this point I think. There is also a poor man's Champions League called the Uefa Cup - the teams not good enough to qualify for Champions League can qualify for this (it's like the NIT tournament I guess).

I'm just curious, why did you choose Man U? I don't think it's too late for you to reconsider your decision. I suggest Tottenham.

A couple links:

beginner's guide to european soccer
An American's Guide To European Soccer And How It Relates To The USA

I am excited for you!
posted by beisny at 6:30 AM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Man U plays in the Premier League against other English teams. They play for the FA Cup. Other than friendlies, the other game's you'd see them play would be for UEFA's Champions League, which I never understood to be a league, technically speaking, but I guess that's sort of a semantic point. That's where Man U would play other European powerhouses, like Barcelona some weeks back. But yes, Barcelona plays most of its game in Spain's league, La Liga. The Premier League likely is the best league going right now, although fans of Barcelona and Madrid might feel differently. Other top leagues, possibly in order, are Italy's Serie A, Germany's Bundesliga, and France's Ligue 1.

I think friendlies are of interest when you're, say, a U.S. soccer fan, as they give you a chance to see some foreign stars, although some will sit those games out.

If you go to the link Magnakai provided, I bet you'll see when the 2010-2011 Premier League season ends/ended, and when the 2011-2012 season starts.

If you want to see some real talent up close, it's easy to take a vacation to London and find seats at a stadium a short train ride out from the capital. Reading is one I've taken advantage of, to see Arsenal. Getting tickets to Arsenal, Chelsea, or even Fulham. You could probably get tickets to Reading-Man U if you stayed on top of when they were made available.

(On preview, sorry for duplicative info, but some of it will be 'new'.)
posted by troywestfield at 6:31 AM on June 27, 2011

The three "biggest" international tournaments are held every 4 years:
  • The World Cup, obviously; the next one will be in 2014 in Brazil.
  • The Euro Cup, which is more or less the Gold Cup equivalent for UEFA, the European confederation; the next one will be 2012 with Poland/Ukraine hosting.
  • The Confederations Cup, where the winners from all of these confederation competitions go to (so Mexico has qualified by winning the Gold Cup); that'll be in 2013 in Brazil.
You should also play close attention to the UEFA Champions League and the Europa Cup, which are the closest thing to a cross-country club league you're going to get.

As for whether watching friendlies or not are worthwhile: depends. If you're talking international friendlies, those are generally worth it as most teams bring their main lineups and the games do matter a little for FIFA rankings. If you're talking club friendlies, like the upcoming MUFC or Barca US tours - generally there's a contractual obligation to have the big names out for at least some playing time but you will probably also see a lot of reserves getting fielded. Ticket prices also tend to be absurd, so you might as well find a local soccer pub and watch it on TV, since it may end up being all the same.

MUFC does play in the Premier League, as Magnakai mentioned; the next EPL season starts in mid-August and typically runs through the end of May. All teams play each of the other 19 teams twice, once home and once away, for a total of 38 games. (If you're looking for schedules relating to the EPL, know that those are generally under the link labeled "Fixtures".)

Each European country will have a group that runs all football competition in their borders; in England, that's the Football Association. Note that the FA doesn't just govern the top division but every lower level division as well - which turns into 23 levels.

Lastly, since you mentioned some Fire games - I've found that MLS games are the best way to get my soccer fix locally, and if you have the opportunity to support a local club, please do so. (The other advantage is that since MLS' schedule runs opposite all the European schedules, you'll ALWAYS have soccer to watch.)
posted by Remy at 6:33 AM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Here's something that took me a while to figure out:

Think of the leagues (English Premier, La Liga, Bundesliga) as a a regular season and the tournaments as the playoffs

Teams play against each other to rack up points. At the end of the season, based on their standings, the teams qualify for tournaments, which take place during the next regular season
posted by Cloud King at 6:34 AM on June 27, 2011

I suggest you hold off on deciding you really, really want to support ManU when youre not even sure what league they play in. They're the Yankees/Patriots/whatever of football and just as many people despise them as love them. Second, many ManU supporters don't use the ManU abbreviation and say "United" instead. Third, please don't day futbol, especially when referencing a football club in England. It's a weird affectation of American fans who crave authenticity and feel weird saying "football" but don't want to say "soccer."
posted by proj at 6:35 AM on June 27, 2011

Under "what else should I know": the top clubs of the various European leagues compete in the Champions League -- for the vast majority of them, this happens at the same time as their domestic seasons, with midweek matches (Tue/Wed) as opposed to weekend ones.

You'll be able to watch Man Utd play in that competition: the quality is variable, especially in the group stage where there's not as much at stake, but things get better when the best teams line up against each other in the two-leg knockout rounds.
posted by holgate at 6:35 AM on June 27, 2011

Think of the leagues (English Premier, La Liga, Bundesliga) as a a regular season and the tournaments as the playoffs

Teams play against each other to rack up points. At the end of the season, based on their standings, the teams qualify for tournaments, which take place during the next regular season

I'm not sure I agree with this. First of all, the competition is different in the tournaments. Many teams/fans consider winning the local league to be as important if not more important than winning champions league. The local league is certainly more important than the Uefa Cup. Also, it is this year's domestic league results that determine the qualifying for next years Champions League/Uefa - they are not really contiguous.
posted by beisny at 6:39 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone! It's been enlightening .. I'm still open for more of your insight! But about the futbol controversy.. sorry I said futbol! I meant it in regards to the Mexican league soccer. I followed la Liga Mexicana for a bit and then MLS. It's the European leagues I was at a loss, but you guys are pointing me in the right direction.
posted by xicana63 at 6:39 AM on June 27, 2011

There is also a poor man's Champions League called the Uefa Cup - the teams not good enough to qualify for Champions League can qualify for this (it's like the NIT tournament I guess).

That's slightly unfair. The Europa League (formerly UEFA Cup) has lots of stragglers who qualify, but because qualification is based on the previous season's results, it's sometimes good at showing clubs on an upward trajectory in their respective domestic leagues.
posted by holgate at 6:40 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also .. I usually watch Liga Mexicana on, MLS on the Fox Soccer Network..

But English Premier, La Liga, Bundesliga? Where could I watch/stream live these leagues online?
posted by xicana63 at 6:41 AM on June 27, 2011

Do you get They show a number of La Liga games, which you can watch at any time with the service. I recall also seeing other league games when scrolling through, too. Looks like the off-season right now for espn3 soccer though.
posted by jmd82 at 6:50 AM on June 27, 2011 if you want to do it legally (also, if you want to stream on your iPhone or iPad, a subscription gets you access to the app as well), if you do not. ESPN3 will also have some games here and there.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:52 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm not in US anymore but I'm quite sure that the big Premier League games are on tv each week. The Champions League is definitely on but keep in mind that this is usually 2:30 pm easter time on Tuesdays and Wednesdays which might be inconvenient in terms of work.

You can also subscribe to goltv.

I also recommend watching big matches at a local sports bar. It's a great way to meet other fans and feel a bit more of the drama.
posted by beisny at 6:56 AM on June 27, 2011

Fox Soccer airs a tremendous amount of EPL games live during the regular season - generally 3 games every Saturday - and then time-delayed airings of the games that might've overlapped with the ones they aired live. Fox Soccer+ will air some of the others. ESPN will typically air one game every weekend as well, usually on ESPN1.

For La Liga and Bundesliga, GolTV has mostly exclusive rights to both.

Champions League rights have been locked down by Fox, and Europa Cup rights are with GolTV.
posted by Remy at 6:58 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

An excellent thread, but one tiny little niggle. While the European Championship is the strongest of the continental competition, Copa América is no slouch, featuring as it does Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and the other South American nations (and two invitational teams). And, most pertinently, it is starting this Friday, July 1st, and it promises to be very exciting. Univision will show it in Spanish, but I believe that it will only be shown on the internet. YouTube will stream matches in 50 countries but I can't find a list of these countries anywhere, but I think the US might be one of them. The Independent is putting out a series of very good previews of each team. Mexico is participating as an invitational team, but it is sending only youth players.
posted by Kattullus at 7:40 AM on June 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

Don't forget the women!

The women's World Cup starts today! Mexico and England will be squaring off in about an hour, the US will play North Korea tomorrow.
posted by Tsuga at 8:03 AM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

(And by starts today I mean started yesterday.)
posted by Tsuga at 8:10 AM on June 27, 2011

Man U plays in the Premier League against other English teams.

And, next season, one Welsh one.
posted by asterix at 1:29 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

A propos of what asterix said, if you like to root for righteous underdogs, xicana63, then Swansea City is the tide your boat is waiting for. Note: May end in heartbreak.
posted by Kattullus at 2:10 PM on June 27, 2011

Man U plays in the Premier League against other English teams. They play for the FA Cup.

In case it's not clear, these are two different competitions that run at more or less the same time.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 2:14 PM on June 27, 2011

Oh yeah, I don't think anyone's mentioned this... most countries have more than one cup competition, for instance besides the FA Cup in England (and Wales) there's also the less prestigious Football League Cup also known simply as the League Cup (or the Carling Cup, after its sponsor).
posted by Kattullus at 3:02 PM on June 27, 2011

I'm a United fan. Most seasons, it plays in the Premier League, the League Cup, the FA Cup, and the Champions League.

Major European Leagues: (a) English Premier League, (b) German Bundesliga, (c) Spanish La Liga, (d) Italian Serie A, and maybe (e) French Ligue 1. These are domestic and only involve teams based in their respective countries. Each season, the top-placed teams in each league are given places in the European tournaments. For example, the top four teams in a season in the EPL are eligible to compete in the next season's CL. The EPL is given four slots as English teams have generally performed well in the CL and the league is thus given more slots; if a league's teams perform poorly for several years the league has CL slots taken from them.

Major European cup competitions/ tournaments: (a) Champions League, (b) Europa League (formerly the UEFA Cup). Teams qualify for the CL by placing within the top places; Europa League places are given to the next few places, as well as the top 3 Fair Play winners. Another way to qualify for the Europa League is to win a cup competition; this is how Birmingham City, despite being relegated from the Premier League, will be playing in the Europa League next season, as they beat Arsenal in the last League Cup Final. (As Kattullus mentions, it's also known as the Carling Cup.)

Choosing to support any team is your own decision and entirely up to you. (But I think you already know that.)
posted by WalterMitty at 9:55 PM on June 27, 2011

If you do decide to support United, here's some useful links:

Fixtures: fixtures list

A couple of blogs I follow: Republik of Mancunia and The Red Devil. There are a lot - anyone with a few dollars and some spare time can set up a blog - but RoM is one of the better ones, with regular updates and a good mix of posts, while The Red Devil is more typical of the rest of the United blogosphere.

There are a few officialish Twitter feeds - the United press office feed, and this is a feed belonging to a reporter (Nick Coppack) working for United.

There's a lot of stuff out there if you're into that sort of thing.
posted by WalterMitty at 10:04 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

(Some people claim that the term "Man U" was created by people who support other teams:

"An early example of its usage is this chant by West Brom fans: “Duncan Edwards is manure, rotting in his grave, man you are manure – rotting in your grave”. The origin of “Man U” is a song to insult the dead Duncan Edwards" and the 1958 Munich air disaster, that killed 23 passengers, including 8 players.)
posted by iviken at 2:20 AM on June 28, 2011

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