Football is the biggest sport on the planet and is especially huge in the UK.
When the English domestic season kicks off, the relentless action is jam-packed into nine months, with games taking place pretty much every day and night of the week.
The Premier League alone has 380 matches per season.
The English Football League consists of 72 clubs, which all play 46 games per season.
Alongside league commitments, English sides also feature in domestic club competitions, and some of England’s elite teams compete in Europe as well.
In this overview, we look into just how many matches there are in a football season.
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Premier League – 380 Matches
The Premier League is highly regarded as the best and biggest league in world football. Some may doubt those claims but it is undeniably the richest league on the planet and attracts many of the game’s global stars. The division is home to some of Europe’s finest club sides such as Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea. Manchester City are a more recent addition to this list, having dominated the division under Pep Guardiola.
The Premier League season usually runs from August to May, with 380 matches taking place every year. There are 20 teams in the league, and they all play each other twice, once at home and once away. Therefore, each side plays 38 league fixtures. That is far from the final number though, certainly as far as the top sides are concerned.
All Premier League teams will compete in the League Cup and the FA Cup. Should a side make the final of both of these, that will add an extra 12 games, potentially more if they entered the League Cup in the earlier rounds and/or had to face a replay (though these have largely been phased out). Some of the bigger teams that have European commitments might then play a further 10 or more matches depending on the competition they are featuring in, the stage they entered at and how far they go.
In 2022/23, for example, West Ham played 15 matches in the Europa Conference League on top of their domestic games. Teams in European competition can, therefore, play well over 50 games per season in total. In the 2021/22 campaign Liverpool famously played in every game that they possibly could have. They only managed to win the two least prestigious trophies, the two domestic cups; however, in making the finals of those, plus the Champions League, they ended up playing 63 games, including their 38 regulation matches in the Premier League.
From August, Premier League matches take place every weekend apart from international and cup windows. There are also a few midweek rounds over the course of the campaign, with cup games also sometimes taking place during the week. All European games, with the exception of some finals, take place in midweek as well.
EFL Championship – 552 Matches
The Championship is England’s second-highest division.
The majority of clubs in the Championship have been in the Premier League at some point, and there are several comparatively huge teams in the Championship most seasons, attracting crowds that would be at home in top-tier divisions in most countries.
Unlike the EPL (Premier League), the Championship houses 24 sides and so there are more games in the season.
As in the EPL, all clubs play each other home and away, and there are a total of 552 games played in a regular season.
At the end of the campaign, there are also five matches (in total) in the play-offs; third play sixth, while fourth take on fifth over two two-legged semi-finals. The winners will meet in the Championship play-off final, which usually takes place at the end of May.
Championship sides only very, very rarely play in Europe. They play in the domestic cups, though it is relatively unusual for them to make the latter stages.
EFL League One & Two – 552 Matches
After the Championship, EFL League One is the next league on the English football pyramid.
It shares many similarities to the division above, with 24 teams playing 46 matches per season.
There are also a total of 552 games before the play-offs.
EFL League Two is the bottom tier of the Football League. Clubs relegated from this division drop into the National League.
24 teams compete in the league, with the top three being automatically promoted to the third tier. The final promotion position is decided in the play-offs.
At the other end, only the bottom two are relegated.
Domestic Cup Competitions
Every Premier League, Championship, League One and League Two club has cup commitments each season. The biggest domestic cup is the FA Cup, which is one of the oldest club competitions in football.
Lower league teams start their FA Cup journeys in the preliminary and qualifying rounds, while clubs from League One and League Two enter in the first round. Teams in the Premier League and Championship join the competition in round three. In the 2022-23 season, 732 teams participated in the competition, with Man City running out winners. 144 matches were played in total.
The EFL Cup is the next biggest club competition in England. Games usually take place from August to February, with the final being held at Wembley Stadium in the winter. In a typical EFL Cup campaign, there are 93 matches played. The semi-finals are played over two legs, but there are no replays.
The EFL Trophy is a competition played by clubs solely from League One and League Two. This gives the lesser-known teams a great chance to play in a major final at Wembley. In the 2022-23 season, 64 games were played. There is also the FA Vase, which is an annual competition for teams competing in levels nine and 10 of the National League.
European Cup Competitions
The best teams in England compete in Europe.
The UEFA Champions League is UEFA’s elite club competition and runs alongside the domestic divisions. In the 2023-24 Champions League, Man City, Arsenal, Man United and Newcastle United all fought for glory against continental greats like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, PSG, both Milan sides and Napoli.
Man City went all the way in 2023 to get their hands on the Champions League trophy for the first time in the club’s history. Man City played six group games and six knockout matches before making the final. Overall, 125 matches were played.
Europe’s next main club competition is the UEFA Europa League.
Of the Premier League teams, Liverpool and Brighton & Hove Albion featured in the 2023-24 campaign. West Ham United also qualified after winning the UEFA Europa Conference League. Aston Villa played in the UEFA Europa Conference League. Both competitions had a total of 141 games each.
The winners of the Champions League and Europa League meet in the UEFA Super Cup each season, and the European champions also feature in the FIFA Club World Cup, potentially adding yet more games to the workloads of the very best clubs.
Other Top Leagues
The Premier League is classed as one of Europe’s top five leagues; the others are La Liga in Spain, Ligue 1 in France, Italy’s Serie A and the German Bundesliga.
Just like the Premier League, there are 380 domestic games per season in Spain, France and Italy.
The Bundesliga is slightly different to the others as there are 18 teams instead of 20. 306 matches take place in Germany’s top tier each season.
The Scottish Premiership has a total of 228 games.
There are only 12 clubs competing in Scotland’s top division.
The first 33 games see the teams play one another three times before the league splits into two for matches 34 to 38.
Internationals also play a huge part in the football season.
The FIFA World Cup takes place every four years, with the host country changing each time. The European World Cup qualifiers usually begin around 2 years before the competition itself.
Then there is the UEFA European Championship tournament, in which only European nations compete. Again, the host nation changes each time the competition is held, and it is only held once every four years, cycling with the World Cup so that there is a major international competition every 2 years. These too have qualifying matches.
Various international tournaments are held all over the world such as the CONCACAF Gold Cup, CONMEBOL Copa America, and the African Cup of Nations. Therefore, top international players can easily play on average 50 to 60 league, cup and international matches per season.