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What Is Relegation in Soccer

Published date: December 14, 2021

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The meaning of relegation in soccer is relatively easy to understand and comes down to a simple explanation. To be relegated is not something any team would want to happen to them and must be avoided at all costs.

Unfortunately, not every team can win all of the time, making them vulnerable to this situation. This will happen with every league season, so every team must try to perform at their best in their current league.

Let’s investigate this term and see the concept of promotion and relegation for any soccer team that participates in any soccer league.

So, What Is Relegation?

Relegation simply means that a team is demoted to an inferior league if they end up at the bottom of their league table. If a team is playing in a major league and are at the lowest rank, they will be removed from their current league.

So, the following season they will start at the top position of the lower ranking league they were demoted to. Luckily this does not happen in any North American major league soccer or any other type of American sports.

You can derive from this that when a team does not perform at its best, it might risk relegation. It all comes down to a team’s performance, whether relegation is threatened at the end of a season.

This system is used worldwide in soccer and works the same, but the number of teams relegated differs. This means that the total number of lowest-ranked teams that may be demoted is different and is called the relegation zone.

Some football leagues relegate just the lowest-ranked team from that group, while others may demote up to four of their worst-ranked teams. The possibility of relegation can motivate a team to improve drastically in these play-offs and show why they are there in the first place.

Playing off against a higher-ranking team might prove quite difficult for a team from a lower division. European leagues have a different system where every team has to earn their place in the different divisions.

Every new team starts at the bottom of that division and needs to fight for a higher ranking spot. This new team must consistently end at the top of their current league before they can be promoted to European football leagues.

European soccer leagues are pretty tough, and a team may take years before they end up in the top European competitions. Not everybody agrees with the European sports league systems, but this is maybe the only way with so many teams participating.

Every one of those teams playing in a league championship is always concerned about their league rankings and overall performance. They must perform at their best all the time because of the threat that they might end up at the bottom of the league table.

What is Promotion?

Promotion is the opposite of relegation and holds many benefits for a promoted team. If a team from a higher league is relegated, the team at the top of the ranks in a lower league receives an automatic promotion.

This will help to motivate every team in that division to always give their best performance for a chance to end at the top. Depending on the relegation zone of a particular league, the same amount of teams can be promoted that are relegated.

For instance, the premier league has a three-team relegation zone in the English football leagues, leaving three spots for promotion. Other leagues may only have two spots, and others have up to four spots for relegation and, in turn, promotion.

In some cases, the top team of the lower league will receive automatic promotion while other spots need to be earned. This can happen through play-offs between the two, three, or four lower-ranked teams and the same league and teams from a minor league.

The teams at risk for relegation can easily retain their spots in the higher division in the play-off option. 

Girl football team players crying, feeling bitterness of defeat

Benefits Of Relegation

There are several benefits to the relegation of a team from the higher leagues. 

  • The first and foremost benefit is that it gives teams from the lower league the chance to show their mettle.
  • Teams from even the lowest divisions can get a chance to move up to higher divisions.
  • It helps to improve the competitive balance so all teams may aspire to reach higher professional leagues.

Cons Of Relegation

There are always the negative parts if you look at the concept of relegation and why a team faces the negative impact of relegation.

  • The cost of relegation can have quite an impact on the financial status of a team, which means a lower income.
  • Automatic relegation can have a pretty negative impact on the morale of any soccer team.
  • There is no guarantee that if a team gets promoted, it will stay in that higher league.

Benefits Of Promotion

There are many benefits to promotion, but that is not always the case. There is always the threat of relegation. But we will not be concerned about that here, so we look at the benefits for all those promoted teams.

  • It helps to improve the morale of the team and helps them to keep trying their best all the time.
  • A team that has been promoted will have the chance to compete against higher division clubs.
  • There are also financial benefits for a team that is promoted to a higher league.

Cons Of Promotion

There are not many cons when it comes to promoting a team to a higher division. The only negative thing that can be thought of is the ever threat of being relegated if the team does not perform.


As you can see, this relegation system is a simple but effective way to motivate soccer teams to consistently perform at their very best. Nobody likes to be demoted to a lower division, and the negative impact on their morale and their fans can be devastating.

The financial impact it may have will also motivate a team to keep on doing their best.

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