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Ligue 1 is the home of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Angel di Maria, and Edinson Cavani—and that’s just on one team.
Founded in 1932, Ligue 1 (which officially changed to that name in 2002) is France’s top-flight pro soccer league, and it’s one of the top leagues in Europe. Of course, France is the reigning World Cup winners, and though that squad features plenty of players who feature for top sides in Germany, England, and Spain, Ligue 1 does play host to some of France’s finest, as well as up-and-coming young homegrown talents and an assortment of players from all over the globe.
What is Ligue 1?
Ligue 1 (with the “one” usually pronounced “un,” to emphasize its Frenchness) is the top-tier league in France, structured like the Premier League and La Liga, with 20 teams vying for an annual title in a season that runs from August to May.
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 two worst-performing teams are automatically relegated to Ligue 2, with the two-best teams in Ligue 2 moving up to Ligue 1. Like in Germany (but not England or Spain), the 18th-place team gets a last chance, playing in a relegation playoff match against a challenger from Ligue 2. (That team, in a complicated wrinkle, is determined from the third place team playing the winner of a match between the fourth and fifth place team.)
The Ligue 1 teams, like its European top-tier league counterparts, play their final matches all on the same time at the same time. (This year, it’s Friday, May 24 at 3:05 pm ET.)
Which Ligue 1 teams should I know?
It starts with PSG, short for Paris Saint-Germain, who have won five of the last six titles and have the league’s most recognizable stars: Brazilian captain and perennial best-player-in-the-world listmaker Neymar, French rising star Kylian Mbappé (hero of the last World Cup, still just 20 years old), and stalwart Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani. It was also the home for veteran Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon after he left Juventus and has been the longtime club team for mainstay Brazilian defender Thiago Silva and Argentine winger Angel di Maria. It’s a team loaded with talent, which has been dominant in Ligue 1 but has missed out on what the squad’s really built for: winning a UEFA Champions League title.
Lyon, officially Olympique Lyonnais, has a long history of Ligue 1 success and will join PSG in the 2019-2020 Champions League (along with surprise entrants Lille). Lyon’s top players include French national team midfielder Nabil Fakir and Dutch international winger (and former Manchester United player) Memphis Depay. Olympique de Marseille, or simply OM or Marseille, is another perennial power currently featuring free kick specialist Dimitri Payet (who brought his talents and mohawk to West Ham for several seasons), international bad boy and Italian national team striker Mario Balotelli, and World Cup winners Florian Thauvin and Steve Mandanda.
Monaco won the league outright in 2016-17 but moved key players to other teams following that triumph, and they had a particularly rough ’18-’19, finishing near the bottom of the table. They still have a recognizable cast that includes Cesc Fabregas, Stevan Jovetic, and Radmael Falcao, and added Russian player Aleksandr Golovin, one of the most-hyped young players at the 2018 World Cup.
Ligue 1 teams:
- Dijon (will be moving to Ligue 2 in 2019-20)
- Guingamp (will be moving to Ligue 2 in 2019-20)
Ligue 1 live stream: Watch Ligue 1 matches for free
Each of the following services carries beIN Sports, providing a one-week trial and therefore an easy way to watch Ligue 1 matches for free.
1) Sling TV
- Sling TV pricing: $25-$40 per month (after a 7-day free trial)
- 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 and our comprehensive FuboTV review.)
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.
Ligue 1 top scorers
Kylian Mbappé: Through the first 37 matches of the season, Mbappé has scored an incredible 32 goals to lead the league. Friday’s match against Reims (the featured Ligue 1 match on BeIN Sports) may be Mbappé’s final match with PSG. It’s likely (if transfer rumors are to be believed) he’ll be with Real Madrid when La Liga kicks off this coming August.
Nicolas Pepe: The French-Ivorian winger has been a huge reason Lille’s rocketed to a Champions League place this year, with 22 goals to lead Les Dogues. He’s also the subject of intriguing transfer rumors. Don’t be surprised if you see him with Arsenal sometime during the summer.
Edinson Cavani: Known for his partnership with Luis Suarez on the Uruguay national team, Cavani came to PSG from Napoli in 2013 and has contributed since, teaming with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and now Mbappé and Neymar as part of some very potent offenses. Should he get a goal this Friday, he’ll reach the 25-goals-in-all-competitions mark for his ninth straight season.
Florian Thauvin: Marseille’s top scorer had an unsuccessful move to the Premier League in 2015, coming back to Marseille on loan after just 16 total appearances and a single goal, but he’s been a consistent performer for Les Phocéens since returning.
Neymar: The mercurial talent, who moved from Barcelona to PSG in 2017, has battled injury and attracted controversy throughout his latest season, but he has still appeared on the scoresheet enough to be one of the league’s top scorers.
Ligue 1 champions
Looking at the list, it’s pretty easy to spot when PSG started moving into the upper echelons of spending and therefore Ligue 1 dominance—but it hasn’t always been that way.
Ligue 1 champions:
- 2018-19: Paris Saint-Germain
- 2017-18: Paris Saint-Germain
- 2016-17: Monaco
- 2015-16: Paris Saint-Germain
- 2014-15: Paris Saint-Germain
- 2013-14: Paris Saint-Germain
- 2012-13: Paris Saint-Germain
- 2011-12: Montpellier
- 2010-11: Lille
- 2009-10: Marseille
Here’s the complete list of champions going back to 1932 (and even back to 1893, before there was a professional league).
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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.