FIFA Comparative Analysis

Lower divisions in limelight as FIFA publishes first international comparative analysis

FIFA Comparative Analysis
  • Landmark FIFA Comparative Analysis of Second and Third Divisions available now
  • Focus on current state of play in second- and third-tier competitions worldwide
  • Report covers leagues in top 25 FIFA member associations

While most coverage of club football focuses on the elite, the majority of competitions around the world are played at a lower level. In its endeavour to make the sport truly global, FIFA has taken a look at the status of second- and third-tier competitions around the world.

The FIFA Comparative Analysis of Second and Third Divisions is a landmark study of how second- and third-tier competitions and the participating clubs are run. Published today, the report offers an overview of the current state of play in these leagues, whether professional or not.

From the competition format and the number of spots in each league table to naming and broadcast rights and the varying implementation of solidarity mechanisms, this snapshot of each of these competitions builds up a picture of worldwide trends in professional football away from the big money of the top leagues.

FIFA Comparative Analysis of Second and Third Divisions 

The report covers the leagues in the top 25 FIFA member associations, based on the men’s FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking in April 2020, when the project kicked off. A total of 51 competitions were analysed: 25 second and 26 third divisions. All the member associations featured have both second and third divisions; additionally, two of them (Argentina and Wales) have two parallel third divisions in their respective territories.

The 51 competitions comprise a total of 1,316 clubs, with 464 (35%) playing at second-division level and 852 (65%) in the third tier. The largest second-division competition contains 35 clubs (the USA) and the smallest just eight (Belgium), while the largest third-tier competition has 102 clubs (Spain) and three member associations (the USA, Chile and Denmark) have the joint-smallest third divisions (12 clubs each).

While professionalism is common in second divisions (23 out of 25, i.e. 92%), with the remaining two competitions played at semi-professional level, third tiers are more diverse: ten competitions (39%) are professional, five (19%) are semi-professional and the other 11 (42%) are amateur.

This study sheds light on another important area of the football ecosystem and will form the foundation for further reporting initiatives in the future.

You can find the FIFA Comparative Analysis of Second and Third Divisions, together with the rest of the publications by FIFA’s Professional Football Department, at

See also

FIFA Comparative Analysis of Second and Third Divisions