The Spanish La Liga

The Spanish First Division is known as La Liga. It’s full name is: Campeonato Nacional de Liga de Primera División and it has been with us since 1929. In Spain the First Division is called Primera División (which is commonly referred to La Liga) and the Second division is simply the Segunda División. From 1987, there have been a fixed number of 20 clubs participating in this league.

La Liga History

In 1901, the very first football league was established in Spain. It was the Catalan Football Championship (Campionat de Catalunya). This league co-existed with La Liga up until 1940 when it was finally disbanded. La Liga was the first national league with it’s first season starting in February in 1929 and ending in June. There was just the one division and it consisted of 10 clubs. The number of teams would expand over the years, with 20 being introduced in 1987. There was a short period between 1985 – 1997 when the re were 22 clubs in La Liga.

League system

In 1929 both the first and second divisions were founded together. Fast forwards to 1977, and Segunda División B was founded to replace the Tercera División as the third division. To complicate matters, the Tercera División then became the “forth” division. So the present Spanish league system looks like this:

The first and second division was founded together in 1929. In 1977, Segunda División B was founded to replace Tercera División as the third tier. The Tercera División has since been the fourth tier. An overview of the current national league system is presented in the table below.

Spanish Football Tiers

Club Tier:
Primera División (La Liga) 1
Segunda División 2
Segunda División B 3
Tercera División 4

Below the forth tier, national football is played with regional divisions.

Qualification for European Cups

The top 4 teams of La Liga go forwards to play in the Champion’s League. The runner up team in 5th place, gets a stab at the Europa League.


The 3 teams that find themselves at the bottom of the La Liga league (places 18 – 20) are relegated down to Segunda División.

Teams with Most Titles

Statistics of all Spanish clubs that have won the top division in Spain once or more, concerning the period 1929-2019.

Real Madrid33
Atlético Madrid10
Athletic Bilbao8
Real Sociedad2
Real Betis1
Deportivo La Coruña1

Both Barcelona and Real Madrid have pretty much dominated the La Liga since it’s inception. In fact, between 1929 and 2016/2019 seasons, together they have hoovered up 60 of the possible 89 trophies.

Real Madrid and Barcelona has dominated Spanish club football from early on. Between the first season in 1929 to season 2016-2019 they have together won 60 of the 89 possible trophies.

Teams with Most La Liga Participation

Statistics of the Spanish clubs that have participated over 50 times in the Primera División during the period 1929-2019.

Clubs and League Participation

Real Madrid – 88
Barcelona – 88
Athletic Bilbao – 88
Valencia – 84
Espanyol – 84
Atlético Madrid – 82
Sevilla – 75
Real Sociedad – 72
Zaragoza – 58
Real Betis – 53
Celta Vigo – 53

Between the first season and season 2019-2020, in total 62 clubs have participated in top division of the Spanish league.

Capacity of La Liga Stadiums

The table shows the capacity of the clubs participating in La Liga. Camp Nou, where Barcelona play since 1957, has the highest capacity with almost 100,000 seats. The average capacity in the league is 36,104.

The stadium capacities in the La Liga season 2019-2020

Alavés – Mendizorrotza 19,840
Athletic Bilbao – San Mamés 53,289
Atlético Madrid – Wanda Metropolitano 67,703
Barcelona – Camp Nou 99,354
Celta de Vigo – Balaídos 29,000
Eibar – Ipurua 8,050
Espanyol – RCDE Stadium 40,500
Getafe – Coliseum Alfonso Pérez 17,393
Granada – Nuevo Los Cármenes 19,336
Leganés – Butarque 12,450
Levante – Ciutat de València 26,354
Mallorca – Son Moix 24,262
Osasuna – El Sadar 18,570
Betis – Benito Villamarín 60,720
Real Madrid – Santiago Bernabéu 81,044
Real Sociedad – Anoeta 25,000
Sevilla – Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán 42,714
Valencia – Mestalla 55,000
Valladolid – José Zorrilla 26,512
Villarreal – Estadio de la Cerámica 23,500

Former La Liga clubs and stadiums: Girona – Montilivi (13,500); Huesca – El Alcoraz (7,638); Rayo Vallecano – Vallecas (14,708).

Top La Liga Top Goalscorers

As you might guess, Lional Messi is the top goal scored with a staggering 438 goals for Barca. He’s actually the only player to score over 50 times in the same season. You should keep in mind that the nature of goal scoring has changed over time. For example, in the 1950 – 51 season, Telmo Zarra scored a total of 38 goals, at a time when each team only played 30 games. In second place for La Liga’s top goal scorer, we find Cristiano Ronaldo who managed to put 311 goals into the back of the net over the course of 292 game appearances. Other big scorers include Alfredo Di Stéfano (227 goals for Real Madrid 1953-1966), Hugo Sánches (234 goals for Real Madrid 1981-1994) and Raúl (228 goals for Real Madrid 1994-2010).

Players with Most Appearances

The player with most appearances is the former national team goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta. He played most of his matches in FC Barcelona and in total he did 622 La Liga appearances. Next to him is the Real Madrid player Raúl with 550 matches.

La Liga Timeline

1929 Establishment of the league
 Growth to 12 clubs.
1936-37 season is cancelled due to the Spanish Civil War.
 Restoration of the league after the war.
1941 – 
La Liga is expanded to 14 clubs.
1950 – The league is expanded to 16 clubs.
1971 – The league is expanded to 18 clubs.
 Further growth to 20 clubs.
1995 – 
La Liga is expanded to 22 clubs.
1995 – From the 1995-96 season, wins are awarded three points instead of two.
1997 – 
Final league reduction to 20 clubs.