Argentine Primera División
|Number of teams||30|
|Level on pyramid||1|
|Relegation to||Primera B Nacional|
|Current champions||Boca Juniors|
|Most championships||River Plate (36 titles) |
|Most capped player||Hugo Gatti (817)|
|Top goalscorer||Arsenio Erico (295)|
The Primera División (Spanish pronunciation: ; English: First Division) is a professional football league in Argentina. It is the country's premier football division and is at the top of the Argentine football league system. Contested by thirty clubs, it operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the Primera B Nacional, with the two teams placed lowest at the end of the season being relegated. The season runs from February to December.
In 1891 the Association Argentine Football League was established by Alex Lamont of St. Andrew's Scots School, being the first football league outside of the British Isles. The first Primera División matches were played on 12 April 1891: Buenos Aires FC vs. St. Andrew's and Old Caledonians vs. Belgrano FC. The Primera División turned professional in 1931 when 18 clubs broke away from the amateur leagues to form a professional one. Since then, the season has been contested annually in four different formats and calendars. The league has been under its current format since the 1991–92 season.
The Argentine championship was ranked in the top 10 as one of the strongest leagues in the world (for the 2001-2012 period) by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS). Argentina placed 7th after Premier League (England), La Liga (Spain), Serie A (Italy), Série A (Brazil), Bundesliga (Germany) and Ligue 1 (France).
- Regular season 1.1
- Superfinal 1.2
- Relegation 1.3
International Competitions 1.4
- Copa Libertadores 1.4.1
- Copa Sudamericana 1.4.2
- Round-robin tournaments (1891–1966) 2.1
- Metropolitano and Nacional (1967–1985) 2.2
- European-styled seasons (1985–1991) 2.3
- Apertura and Clausura (1991–2012) 2.4
- Inicial and Final (2012–2014) 2.5
- 2015 Season and beyond 2.6
- Current teams 3
- Champions 4
- Titles by club 5
- Top Scorers 6
- See also 7
- Notes 8
- References 9
- External links 10
The 20 teams play two single round-robin tournaments each year: the Torneo Inicial from August to December and the Torneo Final from February to June which determines the champion of the season unlike the Apertura and Clausura seasons that proclaimed a champion each.
Since August 2014, a new tournament (named "Torneo de Transición") is being held, with 20 teams participating (17 from the 2013–14 season and 3 promoted from the 2013–14 Primera B Nacional). No teams will be relegated at the end of the championship.
From 2014, the format will switch to a tournament with 30 teams. The first five clubs of the Zonas A y B of 2014 Primera B Nacional season will be promoted to the Primera División. Those 10 teams, with the addition of the 20 clubs currently participating in the top division, will contest the next season.
In November 2014, the AFA announced the format for the next five seasons of the Primera División:
- From February to December 2015, the league will be contested between thirty teams. Two teams will be relegated to and two teams will be promoted from Primera B Nacional.
- In the first half of 2016, the league will be contested between thirty teams. Three teams will be relegated to and one team will be promoted from Primera B Nacional.
- From August 2016 to June 2017, the league will be contested between twenty-eight teams. Four teams will be relegated to and two teams will be promoted from Primera B Nacional.
- From August 2017 to June 2018, the league will be contested between twenty-six teams. Four teams will be relegated to and two teams will be promoted from Primera B Nacional.
- From August 2018 to June 2019, the league will be contested between twenty-four teams. Four teams will be relegated to and two teams will be promoted from Primera B Nacional.
Once Inicial and Final tournaments have finished, both winners have to play a match for the Copa Campeonato (familiarly known as Superfinal). The AFA had determined that the first edition (played in 2013) would be considered as a Primera División official title (2012-13 season), therefore Vélez Sarsfield awarded its 10th official championship after defeating Newell's.
Nevertheless, from the 2014 edition it was determined that the Superfinal would not be considered as a Primera División title but an official cup.
Relegation is based on an averaging system. At the end of each season, the two teams with the worst three-year averages and the worst positioned team in the season table are relegated, and the best team in the Primera B Nacional is promoted while the promotion of the other two is yet to be decided. There will be three promoted teams per season. Newly promoted teams only average the seasons since their last promotion.
Averaging was instituted in 1983, two years after San Lorenzo de Almagro were relegated in 1981. That year, River Plate finished 18th out of 19 teams and would have been relegated under the old system. Racing and Nueva Chicago were the first teams to be relegated on average. Boca Juniors was also struggling at that time and had a dismal 1984 season. These facts have led some to speculate that the averaging system was instituted to minimize the chance of big teams being relegated.
Traditionally, two teams from Argentina have played in the Copa Libertadores each year. Since 1987, CONMEBOL has arranged other competitions, originally the now-extinct Supercopa, then Copa CONMEBOL, and lastly Copa Mercosur, all replaced by the Copa Sudamericana now. The number of Argentine teams playing the Libertadores has also gone up to five. Thus, at least five teams have an international schedule in addition to their league commitments.
- For details of the past qualifying methods of Copa Libertadores, see Qualifying method of Copa Libertadores in Argentina
Historically, the results of the previous season determine the participation in these international competitions. The places of Copa Libertadores are allocated to the champions of Apertura and Clausura of the previous season, as well as the three best teams which have gained the highest number of points considering the combined table of Apertura and Clausura, besides the two champions. For example, Copa Libertadores 2008 was represented by Apertura 2006 champion Estudiantes (LP), Clausura 2007 champion San Lorenzo, and the three best placed teams in the combined table of Apertura 2006 and Clausura 2007. Though Apertura 2007 was held much closer to Copa Libertadores 2008, the champion of Apertura 2007 cannot get the place because Apertura 2007 was considered to be the same season of Copa Libertadores 2008. So, champions of the Apertura have to wait for more than a year to play in the Copa Libertadores.
For Copa Libertadores 2009, the qualification criteria are changed. The champions of previous season's Apertura and Clausura, and the Apertura of the same season are also eligible to play in Copa Libertadores. The remaining two places are filled by the best two teams in the combined table of these three tournaments. For example, Copa Libertadores 2009 would be represented by the Apertura 2007 champion, Clausura 2008 champion and also Apertura 2008 champion. The remaining places are allocated to the two teams having the highest points in the combined table of these three tournaments. The Argentine Football Association has not announced the qualification arrangement beyond 2009. However, it is believed that teams will qualify to the tournament according to the results of Clausura and Apertura of the year before. For example, those five teams having the most points in the combined table of Clausura 2009 and Apertura 2009 would qualify to Copa Libertadores 2010.
The Copa Libertadores remains the most prestigious competition in South America, and the Primera División Argentina was the most successful league in the cup's history, having won the competition for 23 times ; Independiente has a record seven wins, followed by Boca with six, Estudiantes (LP) with four, River Plate with two, and Racing Club, Argentinos Juniors, Vélez Sarsfield and San Lorenzo with one apiece.
For Copa Sudamericana, Boca Juniors and River Plate have been joining the cup every season regardless of their position in the Primera División, by invitation from CONMEBOL. Besides, the four best placed teams from the combined points totals in the previous season's Apertura and Clausura would also qualify to the tournament. However, starting in 2010, there will be no more invitations, and the six best placed teams of the season will be joining the cup, even when these do not include Boca Juniors or River Plate.
As three of five places of Copa Libertadores are also allocated according to the combined table, teams can qualify to both Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana through the same mechanism and Argentina teams in these two tournament are usually highly overlapped. For example, Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata, Banfield and Vélez Sarsfield qualified to both Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana owing to their results in the aggregate table in 2005–06 season.
The Primera División Argentina is the most successful league in this competition, having won the trophy five times since its inception in 2002 (won by San Lorenzo) .
Round-robin tournaments (1891–1966)
In 1891 Argentina was the first country outside the United Kingdom to establish a football league. Football in the country was amateur until 1931 when professionalism was instituted with the same format of league. In the early years, only teams from Buenos Aires, Greater Buenos Aires (notably Avellaneda) and La Plata were affiliated to the national association. Teams from Rosario and Santa Fe joined in later years.
A single double round-robin tournament was played each year, and the team with the most points was crowned as champion, except for 1936, during that year the winners of Copa de Honor and the Campeonato played a match for the championship title. The single tournament arrangement lasted until 1966.
During this period, the traditional "big five" clubs, namely, Boca Juniors, River Plate, Independiente, Racing and San Lorenzo dominated Argentine football. No other team besides them had won the league championship in these 36 years. The most serious title challenge came from Banfield in 1951, when they gained the same points with Racing Club in the league table. However, they lost 1–0 in the two-legged first place playoffs and gave the title to Racing.
Metropolitano and Nacional (1967–1985)
In 1967, the single tournament format was abandoned and replaced by two championships in each year: the Metropolitano and the Nacional. The Metropolitano only allowed clubs competing the old tournament to participate, while the Nacional was open to teams from regional tournaments. The format of competition was also altered, with the double round-robin tournament be placed by the two-group championship Metropolitano and single round-robin Nacional in that year.
This change brought about a revolution in Argentine football, as small teams, like Estudiantes de La Plata at first, and Vélez Sarsfield, Chacarita Juniors and others in later years, broke down the hegemony of the five clubs who had won all the championships up to that date.
Between 1967 and 1969, the Metropolitano and Nacional had gone through several format changes. In the first three years, the Metropolitano was a two-group championship, with the best two teams from each group competing the semi-finals of the knock-out stage.
The six best teams of each group would advance to the Nacional, with four more teams coming from regional tournaments, to compete for the Nacional championship in a single round-robin format. The seventh and eighth team of each group, alongside four teams from regional tournaments, played the Promocional tournament, which, in 1969, was replaced by the Petit tournament contested without regional teams. The ninth to twelfth teams of each group entered the Reclasificatorio tournament to determine the relegating teams.
In 1970, the format of the Metropolitano and Nacional underwent a reform. Since that year, and until 1985, the Nacional had become a group tournament with playoffs, while the Metropolitano had been competed under a single or double round-robin system, except for the 1974, 1976 and 1979 edition, which were also contested as a group tournament with playoffs.
Despite the format change in 1970, teams still entered the Nacional championship, Petit tournament and Reclasificatorio tournament according to their rankings in the Metropolitano in that year. However, in 1971, the tournaments were separated. Teams did not enter the Nacional by finishing at the top ranks of Metropolitano. On the other hand, the Petit tournament and Reclasificatorio tournament were abandoned. The Metropolitano and Nacional became two truly individual tournaments. Although the old system was reused in 1972, the separation was instituted again in 1973 and was adopted throughout the remaining Metropolitano and Nacional era.
The Metropolitano was always played first, until the order of the tournaments was reversed in 1982.
European-styled seasons (1985–1991)
Following the advice of Argentina national football team's then coach Carlos Salvador Bilardo, the structure of play was modified in 1985. Traditionally, like other countries in Southern Hemisphere, football season began and ended according to the calendar year. However, upon the reform, European style season was adopted for the first time among all the South American countries. Moreover, instead of holding two championships every year, only one double round-robin tournament was contested, like football leagues in Europe. The team topping the table at the end of season was crowned the champion.
In 1985, after the Nacional was played, the Metropolitano was not held, while the new single tournament (1985/86) was played for the first time.
In 1988–89 season, three points were given to match winners. If a draw occurred, penalty shootout was taken place and the winner of the shootout would get two points while the loser still had one. This format was waived in the following season.
Apertura and Clausura (1991–2012)
Five years later, the single championship was split into two single-round tournaments, giving birth to the Apertura and Clausura arrangement. In 1991 the two champions played winner-take-all matches. This practice was very controversial, especially since one of the biggest teams Boca Juniors lost the finals against Newell's Old Boys, costing them their first official championship since 1981 despite an unbeaten run in the Clausura. In 1992 the game was held as well (this time between Newell's Old Boys and River Plate), but regardless of the result (which favored River Plate) both teams were awarded the title of Champion. After 1992, the practice was quickly abandoned, so that two champions (on equal footing) were crowned every season and no deciding game is played.
Originally, two points were given to match winners except the 1989/90 season. In 1995/96, the rule was changed and three points were given for a win, one for a draw and none for a loss since then.
Even though the current structure provides provincial teams a road to promotion, teams from the Buenos Aires-Rosario axis still dominate. Only one team from outside this axis has ever won a title (Estudiantes (LP), 5 times), and a reversal of this trend is unlikely to occur in the foreseeable future.
Inicial and Final (2012–2014)
For the 2012–13 season, the Torneo Apertura and Clausura became "Torneo Inicial" and "Torneo Final," being disputed with the same format as before but proclaiming only one champion each season, unlike the last format that had two champions (Apertura and Clausura, respectively). At the end of both tournaments, the winners of Inicial and Final tournaments play a match to determine the champion of the season.
Before those changes, a controversial project for the 2012–13 season had been proposed: it consisted in a new tournament that would contain both the Primera División and Primera B Nacional teams: the former was not going to have any relegated team in its 2011–12 season and include sixteen teams from the latter, Primera B Nacional. The tournament would also include a team from the Primera B Metropolitana and one from the Torneo Argentino A, creating a thirty-eight team league. These changes were strongly opposed by the media and the people, and finally the tournament was called off. However, the project for the new format was successfully picked up starting from the 2015 season.
2015 Season and beyond
For the 2015 season, 30 teams will dispute the 87th Argentine Primera Division. Each team will play all other teams once (plus one 'rivalry match', i.e. a game with special significance for the teams involved). Teams up to the 16th position will have a chance to qualify for a continental cup in the post-season via the Liguilla Libertadores or the Liguilla Sudamericana. The Argentine Federation has already announced that the format for the 2016 season will change again, with the number of participating teams progressively reduced to 22.
Teams for the 2015 season. River Plate is the team with most titles won (36). Boca Juniors is the only club to have played every season and never have been relegated. Arsenal has also never been relegated, but it has only competed in the Primera División since the 2002–03 season.
Titles by club
The list include all the titles won by each club since the first Primera División championship held in 1891:
The all-time top scorer of Primera División Argentina is Paraguayan forward Arsenio Erico with 295 goals. Most players on the all-time top scorers table had their golden age before the 1970s, with all of the top five all-time scorers having retired before 1973. The only player retired after this year in the top twenty list is Martín Palermo, who had played for Estudiantes (LP) and Boca in the Primera División.
- Football in Argentina
- Argentine Football Association
- List of football clubs in Argentina
- Argentine football league system
- List of Argentine football national cups
- Records of Primera División Argentina
- All-time Argentine First Division table
- Apertura and Clausura in Argentine football
- Qualifying method of Copa Libertadores in Argentina
- Football rivalries in Argentina
- List of Argentine football announcers
- On July 2013, The Argentine Football Association recognized the 1936 Copa de Oro won by River Plate as a Primera División honour. The information was also added to AFA's website. The Copa de Oro was a final played between the champions of previous competitions held that same year: River Plate (Copa Campeonato) and San Lorenzo (Copa de Honor Municipalidad de Buenos Aires). River won the final match by 4-2.
- On July 2013, The Argentine Football Association recognized the 1936 Copa de Honor won by San Lorenzo as a Primera División honour. The information was also added to AFA's website.
- The Argentine Football Association considered the Superfinal as an official Primera División title (2012-13 season) so Vélez Sársfield awarded its 10th. title.
- Under the name "English High School AC"
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