Author: Juan Pablo Duarte @thefutbolroadshow
Soccer cards making their way in the card industry
Soccer is the most watched and played sport around the world and truly one of my biggest passions.
As the soccer cards market keeps on growing and I continue to get into this exciting industry, I decided to give all the soccer cards collectors more context around this sport, so that you get to know it better, learn more about how it works and hopefully be as passionate as I am about it one day.
Soccer Governing bodies explained – “The captains of the sport”
FIFA (International Federation of Association Football)
FIFA is the main captain of soccer. They regulate the sport around the world and are in charge of the organization of the international tournaments, including of course, the men and women World Cup which is celebrated every 4 years. They have 211 members of federations around the world, which are part of the 6 main regional confederations.
Regional confederations and national tournaments
There are six regional confederations members of FIFA who are in charge of regulating and promoting soccer tournaments in their respective regions. These national tournaments are played between countries, different from the domestic leagues which are played by professional clubs and I’ll explain later.
There are different qualifying games during the year where players might get called to represent their country, but they don’t get paid for this, other than any prizes or incentives the national federations want to offer as they classify to tournaments or win it. They will play with their national team in the tournaments where they have classified to in their respective region, and of course, the World Cup every 4 years, which is the most important soccer event for countries around the world.
Here is the list of those confederations and the national tournaments they organize.
|UEFA||Europe||Eurocup||Every 4 years|
|Concacaf||Central America||Gold Cup||Every 2 years|
|Conmebol||South America||Copa America||Every 4 years|
|AFC||Asia||Asian Cup||Every 4 years|
|CAF||Africa||African Cup of Nations||Every 2 years|
|OFC||Oceania||OFC Nations Cup||Every 4 years|
Now, besides the tournaments between countries in every region, each country has a domestic league, where they have around 20 professional teams, mostly known as “clubs”, competing during a season that usually goes from August to May.
Players have contracts with their clubs and play with them in a regular basis during the year, being their main source of income and the place where they will play most of the games every season.
Top 5 leagues in the world
Here are the top 5 leagues in Europe, the ones that are most watched around the world and have the biggest global fan base.
|English Premier League||England|
European soccer is the most followed and watched globally, and where teams like FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Liverpool FC, among others are protagonists every weekend. Each of these countries has a domestic league that goes from August to May as I mentioned before. European soccer is regulated by UEFA, reason why you have probably heard so much more about it than the OFC in Oceania for example, both are two confederations members of FIFA, who regulate the sport in their respective region, but European soccer is the most popular one.
Relegation and Promotion
It is important to clarify that in these leagues, like almost all of the other soccer leagues around the world (except the MLS in the US), teams can get relegated to a second division league, and in the same way they can get promoted back to the first division league, depending exclusively on their performance during the year.
Here is an example with England for instance. The first division league is the very popular Premier League, made up of 20 teams. The second division league is the EFL Championship, who has 24 teams. Every year at the end of May, the teams who end up in the last three positions of the Premier League, will get relegated directly to the EFL Championship.
In the same way, the top two teams of the Championship will be promoted directly to the Premier League. Teams who finish between the 3rd and 6th position, will have a playoff, the team who wins it will be the third and final club to be promoted to the Premier League the next season. So every season there are teams being promoted and relegated, depending on how their performance was during the current season.
Teams who get relegated suffer a big financial impact, because they will not receive the same amount of money they will get if they are playing in the first division league, mainly because of the broadcasting revenue. Being promoted has the total opposite result of course, reason why some investors decide to buy a soccer club in the lower divisions, because they will get money as the team gets promoted and maximize their investment. Not an easy task for sure, due to the high levels of competition there are.
Besides the domestic leagues, each country will have a cup too, played at a local level, where teams from the first division and second division will compete together. In England for example, they have 2: The FA Cup, which is the most ancient soccer tournament in the world, as it was the first one played in that country where soccer was formalized as a sport, and they also play the EFL Carabao Cup.
Therefore, a team like Manchester United for example, will compete regularly during the season in the Premier League (as long as it doesn’t get relegated), and also the 2 cups in England (fa cup and carabao cup). As the tournaments go on, they will get to a knock out stage in these cups until they win them or get eliminated. In the league for the contrary, depending on how many points they achieve during the season, they will end up in a certain position in the table. Winning the domestic cups allows these teams to participate in the Europa League, a UEFA European soccer tournament that I’ll explain later.
Moreover, there is also a “Super Cup” in each of these leagues which consists of a one-off game played between the current champion of the league and the cup. This happens in all of the top 5 leagues in Europe. Here is the list of the domestic cups they play during a regular season in each of these countries.
|Country||Domestic League||Domestic Cups|
|England||Premier League||FA Cup|
|Spain||La Liga||Copa del Rey|
|Germany||Bundesliga||DFB Pokal Cup|
|Italy||Serie A||Coppa Italia|
|France||Ligue 1||Coupe de France|
|Soccer points system|
Here is an example of how the 2020/21 season of the Bundesliga ended:
As you can see, Bayern Munich was the last Bundesliga champion, because they achieved a total of 78 points during the season. Borussia Dortmund, one of Germany’s most popular teams and the home of players like Erling Haaland, Jude Bellingham and Youssoufa Moukoko who are very hot in the market now, ended up in third position, achieving 64 points.
Werder Bremen and Shalke 04, made a total of 31 and 16 points respectively, being directly relegated to second division.
The UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League probably sound familiar to you, especially if you have been buying the classic Topps Chrome Champions League product and the other products around that same competition, like Topps Merlin Chrome or Topps Finest.
So, UEFA as the confederation in charge of regulating and promoting soccer in Europe, organizes these two European competitions every year. The Champions League, which is the most prestigious competition in the club level in soccer, has been around since 1955. It has had some name and format transformations since then, first known as the European Cup, and after 1992 as the Champions League. 32 teams compete every year to be crowned as the best club in European soccer.
Only the teams with better performance in their domestic leagues will qualify for next year’s Champions League.
The top 5 leagues I mentioned earlier are the ones who have the option to qualify more teams, as they are the ones with higher ranks in UEFA (best overall performance in the competition) Other domestic leagues, members of UEFA, will secure at least one spot in the competition.
How do the clubs usually qualify? Teams who end up in the first 3/4 positions of the table will have direct access to the competition, the previous champions league winner has a direct pass to the competition, as well as the champion of the Europa League.
The Europa league is a second-tier competition between European clubs. It is basically the “lower division” of the Champions League, but still a European competition that many teams want to be part of if they don’t make it to the Champions League.
The qualification system varies in each domestic league, but essentially the teams who end the season in the 5th and 6th position, qualify to the competition. Also, teams who get eliminated from the Champions League will be given a second chance of European competitions by being added to the Europa League.
The last Europa League champion was Villareal CF, a club who plays in La Liga, Spain.
Current top rookies to collect
This part is completely debatable as everyone has their favorite players or consider some players better than others. I’ll tell you who I think are some of the best rookies in the top 5 European leagues that have a card product and an interesting future, who I believe their value will keep going up.
|English Premier League||Phil Foden|
|Serie A||Dusan Vlahojic|
|Ligue 1||Eduardo Camavinga|
I decided to add this part and list some interesting prospects I have been following lately who have had an interesting performance and have potential to be top players, as well as others who haven’t quite showed their best level yet but invite us to be on the lookout.
|League||Top 5 youngsters|
|English Premier League||Billy Gilmour|
|La Liga||Yunus Musah|
|Kang in Lee|
|Serie A||Denzel Dumfries|
|Sebastiano Esposito (loaned in Basel)|
|Ligue 1||Xavi Simmons|
|Konrad de la Fuente|
US Men National team potential
Some of you might have been following the US men’s national team lately and getting excited about the big potential it has. The truth is, there are more American players who are performing in top leagues in Europe and have been showing a great level.
Players like Christian Pulisic for example, have been leading the way of this new generation, followed by players like Weston McKennie, Giovanni Reyna, Josh Sargent, Yunus Musah and Tyler Adams, among others, who are showing their skills in the best leagues in Europe and are getting more popular in the card industry as well.
The USMNT recently won the Concacaf Nations League and the Gold Cup, showing how this generation of young players is determined to dream big and continue to grow the sport in the country.
Besides having a team that invites people to get excited about their performance in the international competitions, the FIFA World Cup in 2026 will be hosted in the US, making it even more attractive for card collectors to start “scouting” their favorite players, following them in their national leagues and seeing how their value continues to goes up, being a great moment to start investing in these young players.
Soccer cards are just starting
To conclude, I hope this article gave you some context around “the beautiful game” how we fans like to call it, and helped you understand a bit better about how it works. There is a lot more information about the sport and I. could have gone deeper into many of the topics, but the purpose of this article is to give a general background about the sport and show you how much room it has for growth in this great hobby.
It is absolutely a very interesting moment to start collecting soccer cards and falling in love with this sport, which is the most popular around the world for a reason and is just starting its journey in the sports cards industry.