Italian Soccer and Fixtures Explained

Serie A is once again in full swing. Here's a quick explanation of how soccer isn't just a league trophy and a playoff, but rather a chance for many teams to compete for 'something'.

I'll start off with something your no doubt aware of - NHL hockey. This should illustrate why Italian Soccer is so much more than just the "Stanley Cup of or Bust" mentality.

NHL hockey basically works like this:

30 teams play 82 regular season games.
Top team is President's Cup winner.
The top 8 teams in each conference qualify for playoffs and chance to win Stanley Cup.
Winner of Eastern Conference plays winner of Western Conference for Stanley Cup.
The End.

That makes for a long season if your team isn't in contention. If you aren't fortunate to live in 1 of the 30 cities you don't have a local connection to the team. There is no penalty for being a bad team - just the promise of 'next year' and the bonus of a high draft pick.

Italian Soccer differs greatly in a number of ways.

Lets break it down fixtures (trophies):
  • Serie A League winner
  • Italian Cup
  • SupperCup
  • Champions League
  • UEFA Cup
Any given season your favourite team could be in contention to win up 5 possible trophies. Qualifications for each fixture differ, so lets break it down some more:

Serie A:
20 clubs compete in a regular season schedule. The team with the most points wins the 'scudetto'. This has a lot more importance in soccer than winning the President's cup in the NHL. This is the goal of all teams. It is similar in meaning as the Stanley Cup.

Italian Cup:
Quick background - there are no 'semi-pro' leagues in Italian soccer. Just 3 tiers of professional soccer. A, B and C with 'A' being the best and 'C' being the worst. The Italian Cup is a contest that all 60 teams in A,B and C play for. Very rare that a team from A doesn't win this, but its a highlight for many cities to host a 'big club' team to play against. Picture the Pitsburgh Penguins playing against the Hershey Bears.

SuperCup:
Here's where it gets interesting. This game is the kick off to the Serie A with some flare. The winner of last season's league winner plays a game against last season's Italian Cup winner. A comparison would be a winner of some NHL/AHL teams tourney last season vs the Vancouver Canucks (Presdident's Cup winner) to kick off the new season.

Champions League:
Here's where things really start to matter with regards to winning the league. If your team is in the top 4 than you are then participants in the Champions' League. This is a giant tournament that takes place throughout the year where the top 4 teams of every other soccer league in Europe plays each other. This when you see AC Millan play Manchester United for example. As the regular season plays on, these top 4 teams eliminate each other until there's one winner. So your team might be out of league contention, but you could still be playing for something.

UEFA Cup:
One mass tournament involving 194 club teams across Europe. Again, just another trophy to play for.

So this is why Soccer is more exciting through out the year and not the 'drag' of NHL that hockey becomes in February. Your team could be playing for a number of different 'fixtures' not just trying to make top 8 at the end of a gruelling season to play a 'second season' of hockey to win the Stanley Cup.


FootNote: RELEGATION!!!
Possibly the most interesting aspect to Italian soccer.  If you are the last place team or the second last team  you will get dropped from your tier and the top 2 teams in the tier below you will be promoted in your place.  So if you are in Serie A - you have to play every game to its best outcome or you risk getting demoted.  This is financial suicide as your team will then play in a lower class with less fans and less money.  There is no 'bonus' of draft picks here.  Just the stark realization that your team is dreadful and doesn't deserve to play with the likes of the other super stars.

If you are in Serie B or C  and you play your butts off and end up in first or second - you get to go up into the next level and have your stadium filled with superstars.  Its a great reward system.


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