In any organised sports league, a season is the portion of one year in which regular games are in session. Depending on where you are in the world, the football season varies in time and length. Most have a single period of time in which the main competition is carried out alongside any cup competitions or tournaments.
The sporting year can be divided into three main sections. These are:
- A preseason – a number of friendly games played for training purposes
- A regular season – the main period of the competition
- An offseason – the period of time when there are no official games being played
The regular season is preceded by a pre-season. During this time, players are required to return to the club to begin pre-season training.
Towards the start of the regular season, pre-season friendly games will be arranged to improve fitness and test team tactics and formations. This is particularly important if new players have joined the team to give everyone time to practice together.
In football, the regular season is the main period of the competition. This season is also known as the “home and away season”.
Typically, the main competition takes the format of a points-based league. The competing teams are divided into groups and/or divisions, and each team plays a set number of games against a certain number of opponents.
In most areas of the world, the league is played in a double-robin format; this is where each team plays every other team twice, once at their home venue and once at the venue of the opposition.
When all games have been played at the end of the competition, the results of each game are accumulated, and a winner is declared.
Many leagues have games that occur after the regular season has finished. Sometimes, the top teams in the league enter into a playoff tournament to determine an overall winner or who will be promoted.
In addition to English football/soccer, this is the same in the major U.S. sports leagues including the Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, World Series, and the NBA Finals.
What Dictates the Start and End of the Season?
Domestic League and International Competitions
In many leagues, the dates of the regular season dictate the opening and closing of the transfer window. During this time, players can be transferred between clubs.
To avoid clashes, the timing of the regular season must be coordinated with international competitions. During international tournaments, national teams with different regular seasons will compete.
In certain countries, however, many of the best players do not participate in the domestic league program. In these cases, the coordination of the regular league and international competitions is less important as the bulk of their national team do not play in the domestic league.
As a general rule, the football season is dictated by the weather. As most games are played on natural grass pitches, they’re not only susceptible to freezing or becoming water-logged, but they’re also vulnerable to drying out in very hot weather.
Thankfully, many leagues have various draining and heating systems in place to improve pitch quality and usability.
Who Sets the Football Calendar?
The world football governing body FIFA governs national football. At the start of each year, they release an international football calendar that reserves certain weeks in the year for national friendly and competitive games in addition to regional club competitions.
For games that fall within the country’s domestic season, clubs are required to release any player for their international team a certain number of days before the fixture. When possible, international competitions are planned outside of the domestic season; for instance, the FIFA World Cup is always in June or July.
When Does the League Season Start and End?
England – Premier League and Football League: August-May
Scotland – Premiership and Football League: August-May
France – Ligue 1: August-May (with a month-long winter break)
Republic of Ireland – League of Ireland: March-October
Germany – Bundesliga: August-May (with a winter break of one to two months)
Italy – Serie A: August-May
Netherlands – Eredivisie: August-April
Greece – Superleague: August-April
Norway – Eliteserien: March-November
Russia – Premier League: August-May
Portugal – Primeira Liga: August-May
Ukraine – Premier League: July-June (with a winter break from December to February)
Spain – La Liga: August-May (with a break for Christmas and New Year)
Sweden – Allsvenskan: April-October
Turkey – Süper Lig: August-May (with a winter break of one month)
The football season varies in time and length around the world. The most popular time frame is from August to May, often with a short break over Christmas and the New Year.
One of the reasons that this time frame is popular is to fit around international competitions. By keeping the domestic season from August to May, there is no chance of it clashing with the FIFA World Cup which is usually held between June and July.
Avoiding the hottest summer months will also prevent the pitch from drying out during the season. Many of the European leagues also take a winter break to avoid playing when the pitch is frozen or waterlogged.
However, the integration of various draining and heating systems allows many leagues to play throughout the colder months.