Association football league system in Italy

Italian football league system
 San Marino
 Aosta Valley
 Friuli-Venezia Giulia
 Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol
Current Champions (2015–16)

The Italian football league system, also known as the Italian football pyramid, refers to the hierarchically interconnected league system for the association football in Italy, that consists of 594 divisions having 3332 teams (excluding Seconda and Terza Categoria), in which all divisions are bound together by the principle of promotion and relegation, with one team from San Marino also competing. The system has a hierarchical format with promotion and relegation between leagues at different levels, allowing even the smallest club the theoretical possibility of ultimately rising to the very top of the system.

A certain number of the most successful clubs in each league can rise to a higher league, whilst those that finish at the bottom of their league can find themselves relegated. In addition to sporting performance, promotion is usually contingent on meeting criteria set by the higher league, especially concerning appropriate facilities and finances.

In theory it is possible for a lowly local amateur club to rise to the pinnacle of the Italian game and win the Scudetto. While this may be unlikely in practice (at the very least, in the short run), there certainly is significant movement within the pyramid. The top two levels contain one division each. Below this, the levels have progressively more parallel divisions, which each cover progressively smaller geographic areas.


The first leagues were started by English immigrants in the 1890s in Italy. The first club was Genoa Cricket and Athletic Club (now Genoa Cricket & Football Club). Initially there were separate leagues for Italians and foreigners, they merged around 1897. In March 1898, the Italian Football Federation (Federazione Italiana del Football, later re-called Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio, FIGC) was set up in Turin. With four clubs joining - Genoa, FC Torinese, Internazionale di Torino and the Società Ginnastica di Torino (Gymnastic Society of Torino). Other clubs existed but decided not to join. The first championship took place on a single day, May 8, 1898 in Torino. The title was won by Genoa.

FIGC joined FIFA in 1905 and the championship moved to a league structure, based on regions, in the same year.

After the interruption of World War I, football popularity grew and smaller clubs joined. In the summer of 1921, a second association was briefly created in competition with the FIGC: the Confederazione Calcistica Italiana (CCI), emerged from an argument between major and minor clubs over the structure of the national leagues. Hence in 1922 Italy had two champions US Pro Vercelli and US Novese. The two groups eventually re-merged at the end of the season.

The move to a single national league structure occurred in 1929 with initially eighteen teams in the top league. The first winners in 1930 were Internazionale. The national team also won the World Cup in 1934 and 1938.

After World War II the league returned to a regional structure with a north-south divide and a play-off for a single year before returning to a national league. Torino were the first post-war league champions and went on to win four in a row. However, it is Juventus, Milan and Internazionale that have dominated the league since World War II, having won the title in 52 of the 69 seasons.

The current league system dates back to 1978, when semi-professional sector was disbanded. In that year, the current Lega Pro (then known as National Semiprofessional League) which ruled Serie C and Serie D, turned in a fully professional league organizing new Lega Pro Prima Divisione (Serie C1) and Lega Pro Seconda Divisione (Serie C2). Italy so became the only country having two distinct professional football leagues, 14 years before England. The Lega Pro was brought back in 2014, abolishing Serie C1 and Serie C2.


The first tier of Italian football is Serie A, which is governed by the Lega Nazionale Professionisti Serie A and is made up of 20 teams. Next is the Serie B, which is organised by the Lega Nazionale Professionisti Serie B. Both of these leagues cover the whole of Italy.

The third tier is the Lega Pro, formerly known as Serie C. It is run by the Lega Italiana Calcio Professionistico; it has three divisions (of 18 clubs each) which are generally split on the basis of location.

At the fourth tier is Serie D, a league of nine parallel divisions (in which the clubs are divided by geographical location) that is organised by the Dipartimento Interregionale of the Lega Nazionale Dilettanti. Beneath these are five further levels; four of them, Eccellenza, Promozione, Prima Categoria and Seconda Categoria, are organised by regional committees of the Lega Nazionale Dilettanti; and the last one, Terza Categoria, by provincial committees.

All Serie A, Serie B and Lega Pro clubs are professional.

Level Divisions
Professional Leagues
1 Serie A
(One national division, 20 clubs)
2 Serie B
(One national division, 22 clubs)
3 Lega Pro
(3 interregional divisions, 20 clubs per division)
Non-professional Leagues
4 Serie D
(9 interregional divisions, 18 clubs per division)
5 Eccellenza
(28 regional divisions, 16–18 clubs per division)
6 Promozione
(53 regional divisions, 14–18 clubs per division)
7 Prima Categoria
(105 regional divisions, 16 clubs per division)
8 Seconda Categoria
(182 regional divisions, 16 clubs per division)
9 Terza Categoria
(232 provincial divisions, 6–18 clubs per division)

From 2005–06 season, if two or more teams end the league with the same number of points, the final place is given from following criteria (that count for every division):

  1. Head-to-head records;
  2. Goal difference of head-to-head records;
  3. Goal difference of regular season;
  4. Most of goals scored;
  5. Draw.

See also


    External links

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