Italian Leagues in football - Italian Flag

Italian Leagues beyond Serie A

Anyone can play football. But there is rarely a club on the outskirts of a small village, with only a handful of local players and finances to perform, that can rise their way to the very top of a football league system.

For that, we have to look to Italy. Although the top tier of the Italian leagues is dominated by world-class players such as Marcelo Brozovic, Kalidou Koulibaly and Ciro Immobile, it is theoretically possible for a local club like Arcole, situated in the middle of swampland, to fight their way up the pyramid to join the very best in Serie A. 

Of course, this is unlikely. But one of the reasons the supporting Italian leagues continue to thrive is because of the promotion and relegation system between all leagues at different levels.  This leads to significant movement throughout all of the tiers, with each team putting all their efforts into climbing divisions one level at a time. 

But then, that might not be saying a lot. Especially if the supporting Italian leagues’ gap between professionalism and unprofessionalism is substantial. So, how competitive is the supporting Italian league game? And how exactly is the pyramid structured to give them hope of advancement?

Italian Leagues: The 101

  • The Italian football pyramid consists of four tiers. 
  • Serie A – governed by the Lega Nazionale Professionisti Serie A – and Serie B – governed by the Lega Nazionale Professionisti Serie B – are in the top tier, with both leagues covering the entire region of Italy. 
  • The third tier is known as Lega Pro – although it was formerly recognised as Serie C – and it is run by the Lega Italiana Calcio Professionistico. This has three divisions with a total of 18 clubs between them.
  • The fourth tier is where the game becomes non-professional. It is known as Serie D and is run by the Lega Nazionale Dilettanti. This has nine separate divisions, each of which are divided depending on geographical location. 
  • Below this league is a further five levels. These include Eccellenza, Promozione, Prima Categoria, Seconda Categoria and Terza Categoria. 
  • Overall, the interconnected supporting Italian league system consists of 1,008 divisions and around 8,564 teams.

The Hopeful History of Italian Leagues

The Italian Football Federation – later renamed Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio – was first set up in 1898, but the launch of Italian football was not quite an all-singing, all-kicking affair. At the beginning, only four clubs decided to join – Genoa, FC Torinese, Internazionale di Torino and Societa Ginnastica di Torino – and it wasn’t until FIGC joined FIFA seven years later (1905) that more teams were absorbed into the league structure. 

The Twentieth Century

While the next twenty years were smooth, disagreements between the federation and clubs began to unhinge the success. For lower clubs, the structure of the national leagues was not conducive to progression. 

In their opinion, the door to higher leagues was held shut, while the lack of relegation also made it difficult to be competitive at the top level. Both major and minor clubs were so disgruntled at the FIGC that, in 1921, they created their own association to compete against them. Of course, the maintenance of both federations and leagues was not exactly sustainable, leading to a merger in 1929 to a single national league structure. 

After World War II, a regional structure was introduced with a north-south divide, but that was only kept in place for a single year, and the league structure returned to normal in the late 1940s. As football’s popularity continued to grow, so too did the skill and drive of teams across the lower leagues. The divide between each Serie was small, which allowed clubs to get regularly promoted into a higher tier, and success stories of Serie D troops drove the hope and excitement of fans across the country. 

In 1978, things continued to change. When the semi-professional sector was disbanded, the Lega Pro – which was the top league in Serie C and Serie D – turned into a fully professional league named Serie C1 and Serie C2. This meant that Italy was the only country with two professional football leagues.

The Twenty-First Century

In 2014, however, Serie C1 and Serie C2 were abolished and Serie C returned once more. In 2015, aupporting Italian league clubs continued to assert themselves to the world. Carpi, especially, had an almost unbelievable success story, having risen from Serie D to Serie A in as little as four years. This included a total of four promotions; from Lega Pro Division 2, Lega Pro Division 1, Serie B and then Serie A. 

So far, the only issues that have touched the supporting Italian leagues and the league system is the problem of venue capacity and club finances. It can be difficult for supporting Italian league teams and their clubs to meet the standards of the leagues higher up. Competitiveness, skill and hope, however, continue to keep the flames alive, and the more success stories there are, the more money there is to build the leagues further. 

Italian Leagues – DAZN Bet’s Pop Quiz

So now you know a little bit about the supporting Italian leagues and system as a whole, it’s time for a few questions to promote yourself to the big leagues. Starting all the way down in Serie D:

Who Is The Most Successful Serie D Club?

Having nearly a century of history under its belt, it’s hard to say who the most successful Serie D club is. The recent dominance of Carpi, however, cannot be understated, and it remains one of the top success stories in the 21st century.

Who Is Serie D’s Most Successful Player?

Manuel Pera is the most successful Serie D player in recent memory, having played for 3 clubs and scored a total of 85 goals in just 114 appearances.

Who Has Scored The Most Goals In Serie C?

Mirco Antenucci is the top goal scorer in Serie C, having scored eleven goals in 91 appearances. 

Which Club Was Promoted To Serie D In 2022?

37 teams were promoted from Eccellenza – the league below Serie D – in 2022. These include Avezzano, Canicatti and Torviscosa. 

Which Club Is Leading Serie D Right Now?

At the moment, Sestri Levante is leading the Serie D table – 10 points clear of Sanmerese, who are in second place. However, things turn around pretty quickly in football and – as mentioned before – every team has learned to hope…