As someone who has followed both soccer and basketball in my life, I can understand how daunting it could be for an American to get into the sport. I’m English, so I probably shouldn’t even be referring to it as soccer, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make for you and clarity’s sake.
The NBA, for example, has a structure that’s relatively simple to understand. At the end of an 82-game season, the eight best teams (based on wins and losses record) in each conference battle it out in a classic tournament-style structure. Probably the most confusing thing about the playoffs for me to understand was the way the first seed plays the eighth seed, the second plays the seventh, and so on, which is still a simple concept.
I’m going to be honest with you now: soccer is probably more complicated than that. But I can also tell you that there’s a reason why it’s the biggest sport in the world with an estimated 3.5 billion fans worldwide - it’s well worth the trouble.
If you’re reading this, I assume you already have at least a moderate level of interest in soccer, so there’s no need to cover the absolute basic rules. But it can be incredibly hard for Americans to understand the way that the sport truly functions in an entirely different continent. But not to worry. To make things a little bit easier for you, I have written your definitive guide to European soccer leagues. Even that requires an asterisk because there are dozens of soccer leagues in Europe recognized by UEFA (the Union of European Football Associations) that you could follow if you were a devoted enough fan. You can view a list of UEFA’s member associations here, with each country owning multiple leagues. Even narrowing things down, there are dozens of leagues part of the official European Leagues sports organization. Instead, we’ll keep things as simple as possible and focus on the five most prominent leagues in Europe. Get ready for the kick-off.