La Liga vs Copa del Rey

La Liga vs Copa Del Rey – 3 Ways They Are Different

Last updated on January 11th, 2022

You’ve decided to watch Spanish football, but are pretty confused with the different competitions. What is the La Liga and the Copa del Rey?

Here’s what you’ll need to know about these 2 competitions:

The difference between La Liga and Copa del Rey

La Liga is a double round-robin competition among the top 20 teams in Spanish football. Meanwhile, Copa del Rey is a knockout competition that consists of teams from Spain’s different divisions. Your team’s position in both competitions gives them the opportunity to to play in either the Champions League or Europa League next season.

Here are the ways that they differ:

  1. Number of teams are involved
  2. Format of the competition
  3. Rewards that the winners will receive
  4. Competitiveness of the competition

How many teams are involved?

There are different clubs that are eligible for both competitions.

La Liga involves 20 teams

La Liga is the top division of Spanish football. It consists of the top 20 clubs in Spain.

At the end of each season, the bottom 3 clubs in the league table will be relegated to the second division (Segunda Division). The top 2 teams of the Segunda Division will automatically qualify for the La Liga.

The clubs that are in the 4th-6th positions will fight for the final La Liga spot via a playoff. This consists of:

  1. Double-legged semi-final
  2. Single-legged final

The winner of the playoff finals will take the last spot of the La Liga.

However, you may want to note that ‘B’ teams can’t be promoted to La Liga if their senior team is already in the league!

Copa del Rey consists of much more teams

The Copa del Rey (King’s Cup) consists of a wide range of teams. It is actually one of the oldest Spanish competitions, as it was founded in 1903!

In 2019/20, the Spanish Federation made some changes to its rules. Now, 126 teams are eligible for the competition. These teams come from the different tiers of Spanish football.

Some of the teams come from Spain’s top 4 divisions:

  1. La Liga
  2. Segunda Division
  3. Segunda Division B (3rd tier)
  4. Tercera Division (4th tier)

The 4 semifinalists of the Copa Federación de España are included as well. This cup is played among the teams from the 3rd and 4th tiers of Spanish football.

The winners of the 20 groups of the Divisiones Regionales de Fútbol are also included in the Copa del Rey.

The Spanish FA has also come up with some interesting new rules:

  1. The number of clubs from the Tercera Division has increased (6 to 75) when the top-flight clubs enter the competition
  2. The lower-ranked clubs are always given the home advantage

This has led to some pretty interesting matchups. One example is Real Madrid playing at Unionistas’ (3rd tier) homeground.

Format of the competition

The format of these competitions are rather different:

La Liga has a double round-robin format

Teams in La Liga will play against each other in a double-round robin format. There are 20 teams in La Liga.

As such, each team will play against the other 19 teams.

Double round-robin due to home and away matches

For each team that you play against, you will play against them both home and away. In total, each club will play 38 games across the league season (19 teams x 2 matches each).

Copa del Rey is a knockout competition

Copa del Rey is a knockout cup. The loser of each match will be knocked out of the competition.

The Copa del Rey used to have double-legged cup ties for all matches until the final. Before the 19/20 season, the Spanish FA changed the format to a single-leg match for each round. Only the semi-finals remain as a double-leg tie.

This is very similar to the format of the EFL Cup.

There are a total of 127 matches

There are 8 rounds of the Copa Del Rey. This includes:

  1. Preliminary
  2. First Round
  3. Second Round
  4. Round of 32
  5. Round of 16
  6. Quarter Finals
  7. Semi Finals
  8. Final

If your club started all the way from the preliminary round to the final, they would have played a total of 9 matches.

Rewards that the winners will receive

Here are the rewards that you will receive for winning each competition:

La Liga qualifies you for the Champions League

If you win the La Liga, you are given instant qualification to the Champions League. So long as you are within the top 4 spots in La Liga, you will qualify for this prestigious competition.

Copa del Rey gives you qualification for the Europa League

If you win the Copa del Rey, you will qualify for the Europa League. However, your club may have already qualified for the European competitions via their position in La Liga:

  1. Qualified for the Champions League (1st-4th position)
  2. Qualified for the Europa League group stage (5th position)

If your club is in the 1st-5th positions of La Liga, the European qualification will be given to the La Liga team that is in 6th place.

Both qualify for the Supercopa de Espana

The Spanish Super Cup (Supercopa de Espana) is a 4-team competition that consists of:

  1. The champions and runners-up of La Liga
  2. The champions and runners-up of Copa del Rey

The champions of La Liga will play against the runners-up of Copa del Rey and vice versa.

This is another trophy that your club can add to their collection.

Competitiveness of the competitions

Both competitions may be a bit boring as they are usually won by Real Madrid or Barcelona. However, there have been changes to the rules in the Copa del Rey which makes it more exciting now.

La Liga is pretty boring

The La Liga has been dominated by Barcelona and Real Madrid in the past 10 years.

La Liga Past Winners Until 202021
Source: Wikipedia

Atletico Madrid did pull off shock wins in the 2013/14 and 2020/2021 seasons. Besides that, it has just been a tug-of-war between the 2 major clubs.

Copa del Rey’s rule changes will make it more exciting

The Copa del Rey has also mainly been dominated by Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Copa Del Rey Past Winners 2008 2018
Source: Wikipedia

The only exceptions were Valencia (2018/19), Atletico Madrid (2012/13) and Sevilla (2009/10) in the past 10 years.

The big clubs tend to do well in the 2-legged rounds. They may fumble when they are playing away to a lower league team. However, they will usually come out on top when they are playing at home.

With the new rule changes, things are definitely becoming more exciting in the Copa del Rey. The single legged rounds make it an all or nothing match where the bigger clubs no longer have a second chance.

For example, Atletico Madrid was knocked out by 3rd-tier Cultural Leonesa.

For the 2019/20 Semi-Final, it consisted of 4 teams that did not include any of the top 4 clubs in Spain.

Hopefully with these new changes, the Copa del Rey will become a more exciting competition to watch.

Is La Liga and Copa del Rey the same competition?

La Liga and Copa del Rey are two separate competitions in Spanish football. La Liga is held in a double round-robin format for the top 20 teams in Spain, while the Copa del Rey is a cup competition with an elimination format.

The best way to not be confused is to think of La Liga as the league, while Copa del Rey as the cup.

What happens if a team wins both the La Liga and Copa del Rey?

If a team wins both the La Liga and Copa del Rey, they will already qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League via winning the La Liga. Furthermore, their Europa League spot will then be given to the 6th place in the La Liga.

Similar to winning both the Premier League and FA Cup, you will already qualify for the UEFA Champions League. As such, your Europa League spot will be given to another team.


Here is a comparison between these 2 competitions:

La LigaCopa del Rey
Number of Teams20116
FormatDouble Round-RobinKnockout
Rewards for WinnersTop 4 Get Champions League SpotWinner Gets Europa League Spot

Both the La Liga and Copa del Rey are Spain’s top competitions. They are both prestigious and will help your club to earn considerable prize money as well as gain access to Europe’s top competitions.

The magic of the cup will always be entertaining as the underdogs will go all out to try and beat the favourites. However, if you want higher quality football every week, La Liga would be the competition to watch.

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