Type to search

Understanding the promotions and relegations of Italian soccer


Did you know that Italian soccer teams are promoted and relegated each year based on their record?

One of the oldest “football” clubs in Italy was founded in Genoa – named Il Genoa – in 1893. More teams soon followed: Torinese (1894), la Juventus (1897), and Il Milan and Il Palermo in 1900. The present-day Serie “A” began in 1929. Unlike professional sports in the United States, Italian “football” has a system of promotions and relegations that take place on an annual basis. 

Serie “A” consists of 20 teams and the squads that end up in 18th through 20th place in the standings are relegated or demoted to the lower level Serie “B.” Conversely, the top three teams in Serie “B” are promoted to Serie “A.” Throughout its history the only Serie “A” team that was never relegated was Inter. In 2006, two top teams Juventus and AC Milan were unceremoniously relegated due to the “Calciopoli” scandal which involved illegal betting.

In 2022 three Serie “A” teams were relegated to Serie “B,” Spezia, Cremonese and Sampdoria while Frosinone after many years returned to the top level along with Genoa and Cagliari. The “scudetto” or shield is awarded to the first-place team. Since its inception Juventus has won 36 “scudetti” while AC Milan and Inter are tied at 19.

The nicknames of the soccer teams began with the “la maglia” or uniform of the National Squad – the  “Gli Azzurri.” Blue was chosen in homage to the coat of arms of the House of Savoia.  The House of Savoia has held residence in Torino since the late 17th century. Torino was also the birthplace of the Italian Unification and the first capital of the New Republic. This tradition of nicknames based on the colors of “la maglia” continues today. Juventus is called “bianconeri,” AC Milan is “rossoneri,” Roma  is known as “giallorossi,” etc.

This European style of annual movement between the top levels of competition maintains integrity and the importance of lower division teams winning at all costs. This is contrary to many losing teams in American sports who often put little effort in trying to win the last games of the season lest they may impact their draft position.

If the United States followed this model, national college champs the University of Michigan would be promoted to play in the NFL. next season. Meanwhile, the New England Patriots, who won just four of their 17 games, would be relegated to play in the SEC conference. Can you imagine?

Adesso lo sa.

Lou Thomas

Lou Thomas was born and raised in Philadelphia, in a family with origins in Abruzzo. He is a Temple graduate who has been teaching Italian for 20 years at all levels. He attained a master’s degree in teaching Italian from Rutgers University. The sounds of Vivaldi and Jovanotti fill his classroom. His favorite quote is Il vino e’ la poesia della terra.

  • 1

Stay up-to-date with our free email newsletter

Keep a pulse on local food, art, and entertainment content when you join our Italian-American Herald Newsletter.