The English football league system is a series of interconnected football leagues, each with their own divisions (commonly also referred to as ‘leagues’ in their own right).
Here is a guide to the main leagues and divisions in English football.
The Premier League
The Premier League is the top league in English football. Founded in 1992, the Premier League now consists of 20 teams.
The top three teams in the Premier League qualify automatically to compete in the UEFA Champions League. The team which finishes fourth has to take part in a preliminary play-off to enter the Champions League proper.
The team which places fifth at the end of the season qualifies automatically for the Europa League; they are joined in that competition by the winners of the FA Cup and League Cup.
The teams which finish in the bottom three of the Premier League table face relegation to the Football League Championship.
The Football League
72 teams from England and Wales play in the Football League. The system consists of three divisions in the form of the following:
The Championship: This is the highest tier of the Football League and second-highest overall. 24 club teams currently play in the Championship. At the end of each season, the two top teams receive direct promotion to the Premier League.
Teams which finish 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th in the Championship take part in the play-offs. The winner of this mini-competition takes the third promotion place and joins the Premier League. At the end of the season, the bottom three teams in the division are relegated to League One.
League One: This is the second tier of the Football League and the third overall. 24 teams play in League One.
The promotion and play-off system is the same as in the Championship. However, those who gain promotion leave League One and take part in the Championship the following season. The bottom four teams are relegated to League Two.
League Two: This is the third tier of the Football League and the fourth overall. The teams which finish in the top three at the end of each season gain automatic promotion to League One.
Teams placed in the bottom two clubs are relegated to the National League.
The National League
The National League System consists of 17 different levels immediately below the Football League.
Rather confusingly, the highest (and best known) tier of the National League System is also known as the National League (it was previously called the Conference Premier division).
There are 24 teams in the National League. Only the champions gain automatic promotion to League Two. A play-off draw between the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th placed teams decides which of them gains the second promotion place.
The teams which finish in the bottom four at the end of the season are relegated to one of two regional divisions: National League North and National League South.
The division into which a relegated team goes is based on geographical criteria.