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Started in 1929, La Liga is the top soccer league in Spain, but leaving it at that is far too simple. It’s one of the best soccer leagues in the world, with top players from around the globe—but Europe and South America especially— playing for its 20 teams. Here’s everything you need to know about La Liga and how to watch La Liga games online.
What is La Liga?
La Liga is short for both its official sponsor name, La Liga Santander, and its official name, Campeonato Nacional de Liga de Primera División.
La Liga’s scheduling and year-to-year makeup work similarly to England’s Premier League. Each team plays 38 matches a year—at home and away against each of the other 19 teams in the league—acquiring three points for a win and one point for a draw. The team with the most points is declared the league champion (with goal differential serving as a tiebreaker), and the three worst-performing teams are relegated to the Segunda División, with three Segunda teams replacing them in La Liga for as long as they can finish 17th or better.
Which La Liga teams should I know?
It’s perhaps reductive to say that La Liga is Barcelona, Real Madrid, and everyone else, but given that the title’s gone to either the Blaugrana or Los Blancos in 13 of the last 14 seasons, that’s how many fans view it. Matches between those teams, in a series dubbed El Clásico, are among the most-viewed club matches worldwide, and both teams’ rosters are filled with star players that even casual fans will recognize from the World Cup.
If there’s a Big Three rather than a Big Two in La Liga, it includes Atlético Madrid, who won their 10th La Liga title in 2013-14 and clawed their way to the 2016 UEFA Champions League final—where they lost to Real Madrid, heartbreakingly, after taking them to penalty kicks. Sevilla has recently dominated the UEFA Europa League, with three straight tournament wins between 2014 and 2016.
Athletic Bilbao, with a policy of only fielding players from Spain’s Basque region, has won eight La Liga titles, though they haven’t done it since 1984. Valencia, usually near the top of the table, have won six titles, last doing it in 2004. The cities of Barcelona and Sevilla each field a second team that doesn’t derive directly from the city name — in Barcelona, it’s Espanyol, which dates back to 1900; in Sevilla, it’s Real Betis, founded in 1907.
La Liga teams:
- Athletic Bilbao
- Atlético Madrid
- Celta Vigo
- Rayo Vallecano
- Real Betis
- Real Madrid
- Real Sociedad
La Liga top scorers
Lionel Messi: Arguably the greatest player of this (or any) generation, the Argentinian playmaker grew up in Barcelona-renowned La Masia training camp, debuted with its pro team as a 16-year-old in 2003, and has spent his entire pro career with the Blaugrana—a rarity among the current class of soccer stars.
Luis Suarez: The Uruguayan striker began his pro career in 2005 and has been averaging more than 25 goals a season since. After four tumultuous years in Liverpool between 2010 and 2014—during which he was involved in bizarre biting incidents for both club and country—he moved to Barcelona in the 2014-15 season and has kept a keen competitive edge without the eyebrow-raising extracurriculars.
Karim Benzema: The French striker had a serious dip in form in the 2017-18 season but has rebounded to help fill the goal void left by Cristiano Ronaldo, who departed for Juventus in the summer of 2018. A former mainstay of the French national team, he hasn’t featured for them since a much-publicized 2015 scandal involving a teammate, a teammate’s sex tape, an undercover police officer, and blackmail allegations.
Antoine Griezmann: Griezmann is a singular offensive talent on an Atlético Madrid team known more for grit and defensive mettle and 1-0 victories. He was a key contributor in France’s victorious 2018 World Cup run, and given his social media-documented love for NBA basketball, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him in MLS later in his career.
Iago Aspas: Providing offensive firepower for Celta de Vigo, the Spanish national team player sojourned at Liverpool for the 2013-14 season and Sevilla for the 2014-15 season before returning to his literal boyhood club. (He started with their academy as an 8-year-old and trained there for a decade before moving into the first team.)
La Liga champions
For the last decade-plus, it’s been Barcelona or Real Madrid, and though Atletico Madrid did win the 2013-14 title, it’s mostly been the two giants in either first or second year after year. La Liga’s had nine different champions since its inception, with Real Madrid winning 33, Barcelona winning 25, Atlético Madrid winning 10, Athletic Bilbao winning eight, and Valencia winning six. The list is rounded out by Real Sociedad’s two titles, and Deportivo La Coruna, Sevilla, and Real Betis each claiming a victory.
La Liga champions:
- 2017-18: Barcelona
- 2016-17: Real Madrid
- 2015-16: Barcelona
- 2014-15: Barcelona
- 2013-14: Atlético Madrid
- 2012-13: Barcelona
- 2011-12: Real Madrid
- 2010-11: Barcelona
- 2009-10: Barcelona
- 2008-09: Barcelona
Here’s the complete list of champions going back to 1929.
La Liga live stream: Watch La Liga matches for free
Each of the following services carries beIN SPORTS, providing a one-week trial and therefore an easy way to watch La Liga matches for free.
1) Sling TV
- Sling TV pricing: $25-$40 per month (40% off first month)
- Sling TV devices: Amazon Fire Stick and Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, Roku, Xbox One, Google Chromecast, Oculus Go, Microsoft Edge, and iOS and Android devices
- Sling TV local channels: NBC, Fox (check your local availability here)
Sling TV provides two base channel package options, each priced at $25 per month. Sling Orange includes three ESPN channels, while Sling Blue includes sports channels like NFL Network, FS1 and FS2, NBCSN, and local channels. If you’re Team “Why Not Both,” Sling Orange + Blue combines the two for just $40 per month. To add beIN SPORTS and maximize your soccer-watching potential, you’ll want to add either Sports Extra: Sling Orange ($5 per month) or Sports Extra: Sling Blue ($10 per month). (The latter also includes NFL RedZone.)
Spanish-speaking viewers have quite a few options. For bilingual families, you might consider the Español: Best of Spanish TV package for either Sling Orange or Sling Blue for 24/7 specialty channel LaLiga TV and beIN SPORTS Connect: Channels 4-9, which features matches from LaLiga, Ligue 1 and Copa del Rey, among others. Both packages cost $5 per month after your free trial. Sling TV Latino is another Spanish-language package for $10 per month, including NBC Universo, History en Español, and—of import to soccer fans—four beIN SPORTS channels. (And choosing Sling TV Latino + Sling Orange for $30 per month gives you access to ESPN Deportes.) For more information, check out our guide to Sling TV channels and our Sling TV review.
- Cost: $44.99 for the first month, $54.99 per month thereafter (after a 7-day free trial)
- FuboTV devices: Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire Stick and Fire TV, Android TV, iOS and Android devices
- FuboTV local channels: Fox, NBC, CBS (check local availability here)
FuboTV is a solid TV streaming service option, whether your tastes run to entertainment (AMC, Syfy, FX), news (MSNBC, CNN), or sports (NBA TV, NFL Network). If you’re a soccer fan, however, it will appear tailor-made for you, with 10 beIN SPORTS channels, NBCSN, FS1, FS2, and UniMás all on tap. If you can’t watch a match live, FuboTV offers a three-day replay for each match and 30 hours of cloud DVR. (Check out the complete FuboTV channels list.)
FuboTV also has bilingual families in mind; each subscription comes with UniMás, Galavisión, NBC Universo, beIN SPORTS, Univision, and Fox Deportes. An extra $7.99 per month will bring you Latino Plus, which includes CNN en Español and TyC Sports among its offerings.
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Phil West is a sports reporter and the author of two books on soccer, ‘The United States of Soccer,’ and ‘I Believe That We Will Win,’ both from The Overlook Press. His work has appeared most recently in MLSSoccer.com, Pro Soccer USA, Texas Highways, and Howler. Based in Austin, he is also a lecturer in the Writing Program at the University of Texas at San Antonio.