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The English Football League Pyramid - A Complete Guide!

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ne of the top sports watched worldwide is English football, and the League pyramid has a key role to play when it comes to working out which team will be playing which. The hierarchical system features interconnected leagues which have both relegation and promotion across each division. Arguably, the relegation and promotion aspect sometimes offers even more entertainment value than the matches themselves! However, the pyramid itself can cause some confusion, especially among those who are new to the game. If you want to know more about how the English football league pyramid system works, this expert guide will help you to understand all you need to know!


The Premier League – Pyramid Level 1

There are twenty teams in the Premier League – the highest level of the pyramid and the pinnacle of any team’s success. Team which finish top when the football season comes to an end are crowned as the champions of the Premier League, but the three teams which are in the bottom three spots are relegated.


Since the Premier League was conceived in 1992, there have only even been six Premier League winners to date – Arsenal, Chelsea, Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City, Manchester United and Leicester City. Interestingly, there have also only ever been three teams to have reached the top of the table in the Premier League before being relegated during the same season – Charlton, Bolton and Hull City. To date, Gareth Barry holds the honour of being the player who has appeared most times in Premier League matches, having represented no less than four different clubs.


The English Football League Championship – Pyramid Level 2

There are 24 teams in the second level of the pyramid – the English Football League Championship. The top two teams automatically win promotion while the four next highest teams compete in play-offs. The winner of those play-offs will then gain a third promotion place. Meanwhile, the three teams at the bottom of this pyramid will be relegated at the end of the season.


The English Football League One – Pyramid Level 3

There are 24 teams in the third level of the pyramid – the English Football League One. In this league, the top two teams automatically win promotion at the end of the season and the following four teams compete against each other in play-offs. The third promotion place will go to the winner of those play-offs with the remaining four bottom teams being relegated.


The English Football League Two – Pyramid Level 4

There are 24 teams in the fourth level of the pyramid, the English Football League Two. In this league, the top three teams automatically win promotion at the end of the season and, again, the next four teams in line compete against each other in play-offs. The winner of those matches will be awarded the fourth promotion place while the two teams at the bottom of the league are relegated.


The National League – Pyramid Level 5

There are 24 teams in the fifth level of the pyramid, the National League. At the end of the season, the champions of this league are promoted while the six teams below compete against each other in play-offs. The winner of those matches will gain the second promotion place and the four teams at the bottom of the league will be relegated either to the South or North division depending on their location.


The National League North And South – Pyramid Level 6

There are 24 teams in each part of the sixth level of the pyramid, known as the National League North and South. The South teams are naturally made up of teams located in the South of the country, while the North teams are based in the North of the country. Of these parts, the champion at the end of the season will be promoted and the six teams which follow behind compete against each other in play-offs. The winner of those matches will gain the second promotion place and the three teams at the bottom of the league will be relegated either to the Isthmian, Southern or Northern Premier Division to coincide with where the team is based in the country.


Pyramid Level Seven And Below

Above, we’ve covered the English Football League pyramid’s top 160 teams, however there are lots of other teams below them. In level seven of the pyramid you’ll find the Southern Football League Central Division, The Isthmian Premier Division, the Southern Football League South Division and the Northern Premier Division. At the present time, each of these four leagues have 22 teams and in each one, the champion at the end of the season is promoted automatically. In each of the division, the next 4 teams compete against each other in play-offs and the four winners will then be geographically paired off in another match. This will then determine the two teams which will be promoted. In each division, the three teams at the bottom of the league will be relegated into the appropriate division at level eight of the pyramid.


The eighth level of the pyramid also follows the same principle. In this level there are 7 leagues, and again the champion of each one is automatically promoted with the next 4 teams for each division competing in play-offs. The 5 winners of the play-offs in terms of the points in each game will also be promoted with the two teams at the bottom of the leaderboard being relegated to a division in level nine.


Cup Competitions

If a team is a member of a specific level league, they can compete in several cup competitions. Of those, the one that is most important and best-known is the FA Cup. All teams between levels 1 and 10 of the pyramid are eligible to enter and this means that there is potential even for sides in levels 5-10 of the pyramid to come up against teams in levels 1-4 of the pyramid.


Another well-known football competition is the EFL Cup. Only teams in levels 1-4 are eligible to compete in this competition. There is also the EFL Trophy for which teams in levels 3-4 can compete. Another competition is the FA Trophy. This is a competition for non-league teams between levels 5-8 and for teams in levels 9-11 there is the FA Vase.

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