What Is Promotion in Soccer?

By Luís Miguel
Updated on

If you’re new to soccer and have been following other sports like American football, baseball, and basketball, the concept of promotion (and relegation) may sound foreign. Those sports don’t use that system in North America, not even soccer!

Fortunately, I know what promotion is, why it exists and how it works. Plus, I went ahead and researched it more. And I am here to tell you everything.

Promotion in soccer is a performance-based mechanism where teams that finish a season in the top positions of a lower league (division) get promoted in the following season to a division above their current one in the soccer league’s multi-tiered system.

I understand there’s a lot to unpack here, so allow me to break it down even further.

What Is Promotion in Soccer (Association Football)?

Instead of a single-league structure like in the NFL, MLB, NBA, and even in the MLS, national soccer leagues outside the United States and Canada have a multi-tier configuration.

This configuration has several different tiers (known as divisions), each one being a league (championship) on its own, sorted from the highest to the lowest.

The top one is the most important with all the star players and big clubs — this is where you can become champion.

It isn’t always called Division 1, but, in practice, it quite literally is. Since there are no tiers above it, there aren’t promotions in this division.

Now that we understand how a multi-tier structure works, it’s easier to define what promotion in soccer is.

Promotion in Soccer Definition

Promotion in soccer is a mechanism based on merit/performance.

When a season ends, the soccer teams with the best performance (those in the top ranking places of the league table) participating in leagues below the highest in their multi-tiered soccer championships system move up to a higher division.

Promotion in soccer is all about meritocracy.

Teams with the best performance earn the most coveted prize: they get to play in a more important league in the following season.

This promotion mechanism works alongside relegation (its exact opposite, where teams move down to a lower division), forming the Promotion-and-Relegation system.

(And, if you finish in the top positions of the top flight — the highest division — you are either the champion and/or qualify for the international soccer club competitions like the Champions League in Europe.)

Guy wearing an SL Benfica jersey holding soccer ball over his head

Article by:

Luís Miguel

As a true soccer enthusiast, I’m Soccermodo’s team captain. My job is to make sure the site’s content is top-notch so that you, our reader, can focus solely on improving your game and reach new heights.