With the 2022 FIFA World Cup now a matter of months away, players and fans alike are getting set for a busy but exciting end to the year. However, it’s not just December’s showstopper to look forward to.
While the core European football calendar enjoys its off-season downtime, top-tier leagues across the United States, Argentina, Iceland and Mexico are hotting up.
And whether you’re looking to broaden your horizons and dive into a new league, or just need your regular football fix, here’s the lowdown on what’s happening in five of this summer’s most popular leagues.
Watch out for…
Incredible drama and fiery derbies: Liga Profesional – Argentina
For a number of years, the AFA played around with the format of its league competition. But the last two seasons have been some of the most thrilling in recent memory.
This season, in the Copa de La Liga (the first phase), we saw Racing – who were undefeated throughout the entire group stage – lose out on penalties in the semi-finals; newly-promoted Tigre make the knockouts on the final day and get all the way to the final; while eventual champions Boca Juniors didn’t concede a single knockout goal on their way to the trophy.
The second phase – the Liga Profesional – is much simpler but just as dramatic, and runs right up until the World Cup. All 26 teams join one gigantic league table, playing each other once.
There will be questions asked of Boca’s consistency, whether Fernando Gago’s Racing have the ability to push for a title, and whether this will be Marcelo Gallardo’s final year as River Plate boss. And then there’s the unrivalled drama of the Superclasico between Boca and River, as well as countless other derbies. You can catch up with the weekend’s action each Monday, here.
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A top title race: Besta-deild karla – Iceland
The Besta-deild karla is the top tier of professional football in Iceland. Luckily for football fans, Icelandic weather conditions dictate that the league begins in the spring, continuing all the way through the summer. The league is over 100 years old and carries a great deal of heritage, especially for a small country in which football is the number one sport.
As we’ve seen in the national team’s regular appearance at European Championships, the standard of football in Iceland has increased dramatically in recent years. This has created an incredibly competitive first division, which has had five different champions in the last decade.
Iceland’s performance at Euro 2016 put Icelandic football on the map. Now, the Besta-deild karla is going from strength to strength.
The 12 team league is currently led by an unlikely outsider, Breidablik, who have won 10 of 11 games so far. But with last season’s champion decided by just one point, and over half of the season remaining, there’s no telling who could pick up the title this year.
You can also get your fix of fantasy football by playing the Besta-deild karla Fantasy Football game. You can check that out here.
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Dazzling skill, and something different: LNF – Brazil
Strictly speaking, this isn’t soccer at all. But it merits your attention all the same.
Founded in 1996, the Liga Nacional de Futsal (LNF) in Brazil is one of the most competitive and popular futsal leagues in the world. The country that invented Jogo Bonito has a long history with futsal. Many of Brazil’s most iconic players, like Ronaldinho and Pele, began playing this more condensed, more skillful version of regular soccer.
Lambreta 🤤🔟🔥 pic.twitter.com/v7oVNQJ2UX
— 🤴🏾 (@leonardoc98_) May 30, 2022
The court hosts five players on each team, the ball is slightly smaller and heavier, and the pace is utterly relentless. The 22 team league features clubs from across Brazil and runs as a regular league format, followed by a series of play-off games. There are goals galore, with the current LNF leaders Magnus averaging almost four goals per game so far. The indoor courts are packed with up to 10,000 fans and the atmosphere is always electric.
If you’re interested in being entertained from the first whistle, then the LNF is a great league to dive into.
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The full package: Liga MX – Mexico
The Liga BBVA MX is one of the biggest, most competitive and most watched leagues in the world, let alone the Americas. In fact, it’s estimated that over a million people tune in every week from the United States alone – racking up more viewers than the English Premier League in the US.
Average attendances reached almost 18,000 in the 2021/22 Clausura tournament, with larger teams regularly seeing well over 45,000 fans in their stands. It regularly ranks in the Top 10 most attended leagues in the world, creating feverish atmospheres week in, week out.
¡¡G⚽⚽⚽L!!! Corrían 7’ del partido, cuando Romario Ibarra apareció para acortar distancia en el tablero para los Tuzos.#GritaMéxicoC22 | #LigaBBVAMX ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/wPA13GnF6y
— Liga BBVA MX (@LigaBBVAMX) May 30, 2022
As for the football, it’s exhilarating. Across the last decade (a total of 20 titles, on account of the Apertura & Clausura format), there have been 10 different champions. The most recent winners, Atlas FC, have won the last two titles, the former being the club’s first trophy in 70 years. Liga MX teams regularly go on to the latter stages of both the CONCACAF and FIFA Club World Cup tournaments.
The 2022/23 Apertura season commences on the 1st of July and promises to be yet another action-packed season of surprises and drama.
Watch out for…
Unique competitiveness and data-led insight: MLS – United States
The MLS has gone from strength to strength in the past decade. With a series of expansion teams like Charlotte FC and Austin FC bringing elite soccer to their cities for the first time ever, the league’s fanbase has grown almost exponentially. An estimated 1.6 million viewers tuned into the MLS Cup final in December 2021, and that figure is expected to grow this year.
And while the league boasts former European superstars like Inter Miami’s Gonzalo Higuain, the league has recently become known as a landing ground for South America’s brightest talent. New York City’s cohort of South American youngsters like 23 year old Argentine ‘Taty’ Castellanos – the league’s top scorer last year; 19 year old Brazilian wonderkid Talles Magno; and 22 year old Uruguayan Santi Rodriguez, have made Europe’s elite coaches sit up and take note.
With the league continuing throughout the summer, and with the July arrivals of Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini to LAFC, and Lorenzo Insigne to Toronto FC, there has never been a better time to watch the MLS. Our regular deep-dives, using unique Second Spectrum data, will also keep you abreast of the latest tactical innovations in this increasingly competitive league.