What’s the biggest soccer honor in the world? There are plenty to choose from, and it’s a popular debate amongst supporters and pundits. Is the World Cup the ultimate prize? UEFA Champions League? Club or country? One can make an argument in favor of the overall quality and prestige of various competitions. But another way to frame the question is through the view of fans. What are the most important soccer titles to you and your club/team?
So that is the question we’ve asked our World Soccer Talk team. Not which competition is the best, most prestigious, or most competitive. Instead, as a fan of your favorite club and national team, which titles are most important to you?
We’ve broken down the vast array of men’s soccer competitions around the world, for both club and country, into twelve categories:
- FIFA World Cup
- Primary Continental Title (UEFA Euro, CONCACAF Gold Cup, Copa América, etc.)
- Secondary Continental Title (Nations League, Africa Nations Championship, etc.)
- The Olympic Games
- FIFA Club World Cup
- Continental Super Cup (UEFA Super Cup, Recopa Sudamericana, Campeones Cup, etc.)
- Primary Continental Club Title (Champions League, Copa Libertadores, etc.)
- Secondary Continental Club Title (Europa/Conference League, Copa Sudamericana, Leagues Cup, etc.)
- Domestic Super Cup (Community Shield. etc.)
- Domestic League Title (Premier League, MLS, LaLiga, Bundesliga, etc.)
- Primary Domestic Cup (FA Cup, DFB-Pokal, Copa del Rey, U.S. Open Cup, etc.)
- Secondary Domestic Cup (EFL League Cup, etc.)
The different titles were ranked from top (with a score of 1) to bottom (a score of 12), and then the results for each category averaged out. Thus, the lowest average number was the most important competition. Here’s how things turned out:
Most important soccer titles ranked
1 – Domestic League
Average Rank: 2.25
There is nothing like the glory of winning the league (at least to our crew, anyway). While other competitions offer a precious opportunity once every few years and can captivate the world, triumphing in the league after a long grinding campaign, and earning bragging rights over your rivals, clearly has its appeal. And in most leagues worldwide, winning a league is incredibly difficult. It requires a consistent performance throughout an entire season of matches – not just a good run of form over a few weeks in a knockout competition.
2 – Primary Continental Club Cup
Average Rank: 2.75
Win the league, and you get to play continental soccer. Maybe for your club, it’s the majesty of the UEFA Champions League or Copa Libertadores. But even in in the lesser Champions Leagues/Cups around the world, getting to challenge the best clubs in your region is a thrilling experience. Winning the competition is an incredible honor that only a select number of teams can lay claim to.
3 – FIFA World Cup
Average Rank: 3.50
Arguably the greatest spectacle in all of sports, the quadrennial international championship of soccer is certainly a coveted prize. Only eight nations have ever won the competition (six of them have done it more than once). To even get to the tournament proper requires making it through a difficult qualifying phase. It may be the pinnacle of the sport to many. But in this ranking, the top national team honor trails behind the trophies chased by the clubs we live and die with all year long.
4 (Tie) – Primary Domestic Cup / Primary Continental Cup
Average Rank: 5.00
Of equal importance to those polled are the main domestic cup competitions and the major continental international tournaments.
The FA Cup, U.S. Open Cup, Copa del Rey, Coppa Italia and all the similar competitions in each country always create fantastic drama and memorable moments. Smaller clubs have a chance to dream big each season, and one or two Goliaths inevitably fall to the Davids of the world.
Meanwhile, Euros, AFCON, Copa América, the Gold Cup, and others offer the international intrigue of the World Cup, just on a smaller scale. For some nations, it’s a frequent chance to dominate a region. For others, these competitions are incredibly difficult and massive undertakings to win.
5 – Secondary Continental Club Cup
Average Rank: 5.50
While not as prestigious as the main tournaments put on by each confederation, there is certainly still appeal to tournaments such as Europa League or Copa Sudamericana. And for many clubs, they offer a more realistic chance at continental glory. Some areas have sub-regional tournaments like CONCACAF’s Leagues Cup that fall into this category.
Winning a secondary cup will send you to the following season’s Champions League, but the title in and of itself is worth celebrating.
6 – Secondary Domestic Cup
Average Rank: 7.75
Not every domestic setup has one of these competitions, and some clubs view them as an afterthought until they find themselves in the latter stages. But a trophy is a trophy, and for some teams, a League Cup (or equivalent) title is the most realistically attainable championship they can set their sights on.
7 – FIFA Club World Cup
Average Rank: 8.00
This competition is in the final year of its current iteration. It will soon be replaced by both an expanded quadrennial tournament (similar to the international World Cup) and a new annual event. In any format, it’s a criminally underrated competition (in this specific fan’s view anyway). Soccer is the only major sport in the world that contests a true world championship for professional teams. Unlike in American major league sports, to be called “World Champions” in soccer you have to actually earn that title by defeating other champions from around the world.
8 – The Olympic Games
Average Rank: 8.75
While the Olympics are certainly a massive global event, and the peak of international sports in many disciplines – both team and individual – soccer is a bit of an afterthought at the games.
Particularly since the tournament has been limited to mostly U-23 players, an Olympic gold medal is not really a major get for a national program’s trophy case. But even in the days when soccer at the Olympics was a senior tournament, it was vastly overshadowed in importance by the World Cup and competitions like Euros. And these rankings certainly dovetail with that historic assessment of the competition.
9 – Continental Super Cup
Average Rank: 9.00
Sure, they give out a trophy for these. But a glorified one-off friendly between the winners of different regional competitions carries little weight in the grand scheme of things.
10 – Domestic Super Cup
Average Rank: 10.00
See above. It’s a fun little kickoff to each season. A novelty. But not really important. And if a club does a double and wins both the league and cup in a single season, this match isn’t even between two true winners.
11 – Secondary Continental Cup
Average Rank: 10.50
More of a recent trend in some regions, some of these competitions are a way to create “meaning” for matches in international windows not taken up by existing competitions.
Nations League in Europe and North America fits that description. But then you have other tournaments that might have unique player requirements (like the Africa Nations Championship which requires all players to come from each nation’s respective domestic league). Others are sub-regional competitions like the Arab Cup. In any case, these second-tier international tournaments placed last in our rankings.
Based on these results, our team here at World Soccer Talk certainly has a club over country slant when it comes to valuing different competitions. But how do these rankings line up with how you rate the array of soccer tournaments around the world? Vote in the poll below to pick the most important championship to you as a fan:
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