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On its surface, the Premier League is England’s top soccer league, featuring 20 teams from London, Manchester, Liverpool, and smaller outposts stretching from Britain’s southern coast to its very northern reaches. But it’s also a global phenomenon, arguably the world’s best pro league, with a collection of the best players on the planet.
What is the Premier League?
Created in 1992, the Premier League is a remaking of England’s First Division, featuring 20 teams in an annual 38-match competition that runs from August to May. (Each team plays a home match and an away match against every other team throughout the season.) The Premier League is at the top of a pyramid of leagues under the Football Association’s governance, and it employs a system of promotion and relegation. That means each year the bottom three teams are relegated (or dropped) to the second level, confusingly called the Championship, while the top two Championship teams automatically move up to the Premier League, and the Championship’s third through sixth teams go through a playoff to win the last spot. Promoted teams get to stay in the Premier League as long as they can finish 17th or better from year to year.
The winner is determined by who gets the most points over the course of the season—three points for a win, and one for a draw. Ties in the standings are broken by goal differential: a simple equation of goals scored minus goals allowed.
Matches take place on Saturdays in the afternoon and evening primarily, though there are a few Sunday tilts, a Monday evening contest, and an occasional match on Friday nights. Most matches air in the U.S. on NBCSN, with NBC taking select matches. On the season’s final day, when all 20 teams play simultaneously, NBC lets soccer invade all its channels. (For American viewers, the time difference means most of the action takes place in the early morning to mid-afternoon. West Coast viewers get the occasional indignities of start times of 4:45 am!)
Which Premier League teams should I know?
The Premier League currently has a “Big Six” that perennially finishes at the top of the table—in part because they have the financial resources to sign top players and top coaches. London has three of the top six: Arsenal, Chelsea, and Spurs. Manchester has two in Manchester City and Manchester United. Liverpool is the other consistent top finisher. Much of the narratives throughout the season swirl around those teams.
There are other notable, intriguing teams to know, however. Wolves (based in Wolverhampton) finished in seventh this year with a lineup heavily leaning on Portuguese players and a Portuguese coach. Everton, Liverpool’s cross-town rival, has been a destination for top American players in years prior and still has an American following as a result. West Ham, representing East London, has a tough-guy reputation yet a post-goal ritual involving a song called “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” and a bubble machine. Teams like Burnley and Newcastle date back to the 19th century.
The new teams this year who won promotion include Norwich City (nicknamed the Canaries, with an audacious yellow and green color scheme that makes them the Oregon Ducks of the Premier League), Sheffield United (nicknamed the Blades), and Aston Villa (which share a claret and cobalt color scheme with West Ham and Burnley). Both Norwich and Villa return to the Premier League after three years away; the Blades return from a 12-year absence.
Premier League live stream: How to watch online
The bulk of Premier League matches air on NBCSN, with NBC and NBC Sports Gold carrying the remainder. The first five services carry NBCSN, providing a one-week trial and therefore an easy way to watch Premier League matches for free, and the sixth is essential for completists.
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 NBCSN (where many Premier League matches appear), NFL Network, FS1 and FS2, and local channels. (Sling Blue customers in select markets get NBC, where some matches appear; see if yours has it here.) 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 La Liga, 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 NBC and NBCSN, 10 beIN SPORTS channels, FS1, FS2, UniMás, and Champions League actions via TNT 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.
- Cost: $44.99-$79.99 per month (after a 7-day free trial)
- PlayStation Vue devices: PlayStation 3 and 4, Roku, Amazon Fire Stick and Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Kodi, iOS and Android devices
- PlayStation Vue local channels: NBC, Fox, ABC, CBS (enter your ZIP code here to check your availability)
PlayStation Vue is a fantastic option for soccer fans who already own a PlayStation console, but this streaming platform is available on a variety of devices. NBC and NBCSN (where the Premier League live) are part of the Core package of channels that offer soccer and other sports programming, and the options increase at the Elite and Ultra levels.
- Cost: $44.99 per month (after a 7-day free trial)
- Hulu devices: Roku, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire Stick and Fire TV, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Nintendo Switch, and iOS and Android devices
- Hulu local channels: ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, the CW (check your local availability here)
Hulu with Live TV includes sports programming among its broad spectrum of offerings, and as a subscriber to the service, you’ll get free access to Hulu’s sizable on-demand library. (Check out the full list of Hulu Live TV channels.)
5) YouTube TV
- Cost: $50 per month (after a 7-day free trial)
- YouTube TV devices: Google Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, Xbox One, iOS and Android devices
- YouTube TV local channels: NBC, CBS, Fox, ABC, the CW (enter your ZIP code here to check your availability)
YouTube TV is a great option for soccer fans, including TNT for Champions League matches, NBC and NBCSN for Premier League matches, and broadcasting partnerships with three MLS teams. (Take a look at the full list of YouTube TV channels here.)
- Cost: $39.99 (for Matchday Pass option); $64.99 (for Premier League Pass option)
- NBC Sports Gold TV devices: Google Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, iOS and Android device.
If you want access to every Premier League game this season, you’ll want an NBC Sports Gold subscription. At the Matchday Pass tier, for $39.99, you get access to 140 exclusive live matches, with at least four for each of the 20 clubs. The Premier League Pass option gives you an option to replay matches, in case you can’t catch a match live, and offers additional programming, including analysis and highlights. NBC Sports Gold offers additional packages for fans who want to follow rugby action, the PGA tour, Indy Car racing, cycling, and lacrosse.
Premier League top scorers
The top scorers for the 2018-19 season were:
Mohamed Salah, Liverpool: The Egyptian forward, considered one of the top players in the world, has been instrumental in Liverpool’s title chase, capable of scoring electrifying goals from distance and timely goals from anywhere.
Sergio Agüero, Manchester City: The veteran Argentine player has been a key player for the Sky Blues, scoring a staggering 230 goals in eight seasons.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal: Formerly with German club Borussia Dortmund, and playing internationally for Gabon, he’s taken to the Premier League and led Arsenal’s campaign with aplomb.
Sadio Mané, Liverpool: The Senegalese player moved from Premier League club Southampton to the Reds in 2016, and has been a consistent offensive threat for them since.
Jamie Vardy, Leicester: When Leicester made its improbable run to the Premier League title in the ’15-’16 season, Vardy was integral to that chase, and is still one of the league’s most reliable goal scorers.
Premier League champions
- 2018-19: England
- 2017-18: Manchester City
- 2016-17: Chelsea
- 2015-16: Leicester City
- 2014-15: Chelsea
- 2013-14: Manchester City
- 2012-13: Manchester United
- 2011-12: Manchester City
- 2010-11: Manchester United
- 2009-10: Chelsea
- 2008-09: Manchester United
Here’s a complete list of the winners and runner-ups, dating back to the Premier League season in 1992-93.
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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.