Understanding Serie A in the Italian Football System

Your Guide to Making Sense of the League Table

Understanding Serie A. Paulo Bruno / Getty Images

Serie A is a league competition designed for the very best teams in the Italian football system. It's been in existence since 1939, and Serie A is said to be the second best league in the world. Italy has a reputation for fielding superior teams. Its clubs have claimed 12 titles.

Now that you're enthused to tune in to watch, it will help to understand all the rules and intricacies of what you're viewing. Here's a guide to what you need to know about Serie A soccer. 

The Serie A League 

The league is made up of 20 teams. The team with the most points after 38 matches wins the Scudetto, the title. Teams play each other twice, once at home and once away in a round-robin format.

Matches are played every weekend throughout the season except when there's a scheduled break for international fixtures, games that must be played over the course of the season. Two games are usually played on Saturday evenings with one early kickoff and another late kickoff. The rest of the matches are played throughout Sunday and on Monday. There are midweek fixtures at intermittent periods throughout the season, with nine matches generally played on Wednesday evening and the remaining fixture on Thursday.

In the first half of the season, called the andata, teams play each other once, totaling 19 matches. In the second half of the season, called the ritorno, they play each other once again in the exact same order but with the home and away situations reversed.

The Points System

Three points are awarded for a victory, one for a draw and none for a defeat. If two teams are tied on points, their head-to-head record comes into play. If the goal difference is still the same after this, the overall goal difference from all fixtures then goals scored are used to separate them.

When more than two teams share the same number of points, the points accumulated in the matches between the teams are used to rank them. Then goal difference is used if it's required. If this isn't sufficient to break a tie, goal difference over the entire season is used, then goals scored. Further tie-breakers are rarely required beyond this point. 

The Serie A Table

The champions and runners up enter the Champions League automatically. The third place team must get through the Champions League third qualifying round before entering the group stages.

The teams who finish in fourth and fifth place go into the Europa League. The sixth place team can also get into the tournament, but only if the two Italian Cup finalists have secured European soccer for the following season. This is because the winner of this competition is entitled to a Europa League place, but if they have already qualified for Europe, it goes to the runner up.

Staying Up

The bottom three clubs in Serie A are relegated to Serie B—the next division below Serie A. These clubs are replaced by the three top-ranked teams at the end of the Serie B season.

Forty points is generally enough to keep a team in the league.