Serie A vs Ligue 1

Serie A vs Ligue 1 – What’s The Difference?

If you’ve been following the top leagues in European football, you may have noticed that there are a few popular ones, including Serie A and Ligue 1.

How are these 2 competitions different, and which one is better?

Here’s what you need to know:

The difference between Serie A and Ligue 1

Serie A involves the top 20 teams in Italian football, while Ligue 1 includes the top 20 teams in French football. Both of these competitions mainly differ in terms of their squad rules and qualifications for the European competitions.

Here is a comparison between these 2 competitions:

Number of teams involved

Both Serie A and Ligue 1 have 20 teams in the league. This is similar to the other top leagues in Europe, including:

The only top European league that does not have 20 teams is the Bundesliga, which only has 18 teams in their league.

Origin of teams

The teams in Serie A originate from Italy, while those in Ligue 1 originate from France.

Here are some of the top teams from each country that have been playing in these leagues:

Serie ALigue 1
Inter MilanLOSC Lille
AC MilanMonaco

Since both of these countries are UEFA nations, teams from these countries will be able to participate in the Champions League.

Frequency and duration of competitions

Both competitions have a similar schedule, where they will start in August, and then end in May.

This is similar to the other top European leagues as well.

Both Serie A and Ligue 1 usually have a 2-week winter break. This normally starts in mid-December, and the competition will resume in the first week of January.

This is in contrast to the Premier League, where it does not have a fixed winter break.

Format of competition

Both Serie A and Ligue 1 follow a double round-robin league format. Each team will play against the other 19 clubs in the league, for a total of 38 matches.

Squad size

For Serie A, there has to be a maximum of 25 players to be registered, with some home-grown rules including:

  • Four players are ‘home-grown’ in Italy
  • Four players have to be ‘home-grown’ from the club’s respective youth academy

You can read more about the ‘homegrown’ rule in Serie A as well as other competitions in my guide here.

Meanwhile, the rules are not really clear for the squads in Ligue 1. However, in Football Manager, it was stated that a squad can register a maximum of 4 non-EU players.

Qualification for competition

For Serie A, the top 2 teams of Serie B will be automatically promoted, while 19th and 20th place teams in Serie A will be relegated. If the 3rd-placed team in Serie B is 10 or more points ahead of the 4th-placed team, it is automatically promoted too.

If that is not the case, a playoff tournament will result. This is more complicated compared to the playoff tournaments in other leagues, as it is based on the number of points that set apart the teams between 3rd and 8th place.

An example was Venezia FC, who was in 5th place in Serie B, but emerged as the playoff winners to book the last slot in the Serie A.

So long as any of these teams finish within 14 points of the 3rd placed team in Serie B, they will participate in the playoff tournament. As such, there can be up to 3 rounds in the tournament, depending on the number of teams that participate.

For Ligue 1, it is somewhat similar. The bottom 2 teams will be relegated, and the top 2 teams from Ligue 2 will be promoted.

However, the 17th placed team in Ligue 1 (17th placed) will compete with the 3rd-placed team in Ligue 2 in a relegation playoff match.

This is a 2-legged match where the first match is played at the home of the Ligue 1 side, while the second leg is played at the home of the Ligue 2 side.

UEFA competitions placing

Your team will be eligible to qualify for UEFA competitions, based on how they perform in the league. The qualification is different for both competitions:

Serie ALigue 1
1stChampions League
Group Stage
Champions League
Group Stage
2ndChampions League
Group Stage
Champions League
Group Stage
3rdChampions League
Group Stage
Champions League
Third Qualifying Round
4thChampions League
Group Stage
Europa League
Group Stage
5thEuropa League
Group Stage
Europa Conference
League play-offs
6thEuropa Conference
League play-offs

This means that Serie A has more Champions League spots (4) compared to Ligue 1 (3).

For the qualification to the Europa Conference League, the 5th team in Ligue 1 and 6th team in Serie A will qualify for the play-offs.

Rewards for winning competition

Here are the rewards your team will receive when they win either competition:

Serie ALigue 1
Prize MoneyHigherLower
Qualification for next
season’s Champions League
for Super Cup
Supercoppa ItalianaTrophée des Champions

When comparing the 2020/21 prize money that the winners received in Serie A and Ligue 1, the Ligue 1 winners received a higher amount of prize money (€60 million vs €23.4 million).

Furthermore, the winners of both Serie A and Ligue 1 will be guaranteed automatic qualification to the UEFA Champions League group stages.

In terms of the Super Cup competitions that they play, the champions of Ligue 1 will play against the Coupe de la Ligue winners in the Trophée des Champions.

Meanwhile, the champions of Serie A will play against the Coppa Italia winners in the Supercoppa Italania.

Dominance of teams

In this section, we will be looking at the past winners of these 2 leagues since the 2011/12 season:

Serie ALigue 1
Juventus (9)PSG (7)
Inter Milan (1)Monaco (1)
Lille (1)
Montpellier (1)

In Serie A, it has mainly been dominated by Juventus, who have won 9 out of the 10 possible trophies.

Meanwhile, Ligue 1 has been ‘slightly’ more competitive, as there have been 4 different winners for the past 10 years.

However, it is still pretty dominant as PSG has won 7 out of the last 10 titles.

As such, Ligue 1 may be slightly more exciting to watch compared to Serie A.

Champions League performances

In this section, we will see how the clubs from these leagues have performed in the Champions League. This is the best indicator of how well the league is as a whole, since the Champions League is a competition between the top European clubs.

To make a fairer comparison, I will be looking at the semi-finalists for the past 5 years that come from either league:

Serie ALigue 1
2020/2101 (PSG)
2019/2002 (PSG
and OL)
2017/181 (Roma)0
2016/171 (Juventus)1 (AS Monaco)

Ligue 1 has more Champions League semi-finalists (4) compared to Serie A (2).


Here is a summary of the comparison between these 2 leagues:

Serie ALigue 1
of teams
of teams
Duration10 months10 months
FormatDouble round-robinDouble round-robin
of matches
Squad size25 (8
4 non-EU players
QualificationTop 2 from Serie B  

3rd – 8th may have playoff
Top 2 from Ligue 2

3rd in Ligue 2 has playoff
with 18th in Ligue 1
League spots
Prize MoneyLowerHigher
Qualification for
next season’s
Champions League
for Super Cup
Supercoppa ItalianaTrophée des Champions
Dominance of teamsMainly JuventusMainly PSG
Champions League
2 semi-finalists
in the last 5 years
4 semi-finalists
in the last 5 years


Serie A and Ligue 1 are 2 of the top footballing competitions in the European football season.

Based solely on the Champions League performances, Ligue 1 takes the slight edge!

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