French Football Leagues

French Football Leagues

France, like many of the European countries, is made up of several leagues. They are governed by the French Football Association.  They use relegation and promotion to move clubs up and down between the various tiers.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


Professional Leagues

The first division in French football is  Ligue 1. It is made up of 20 teams, and can have three relegations per season in which the affected teams move down to Ligue 2. 

Ligue 2 is the second-level of French football. It also contains 20 teams and offers both three promotions and three relegations.

These two leagues are considered the Professional leagues in France. 

The third tier of French football is the National League. The National League contains 18 teams, out of which three can get promoted to Ligue 2.

Semi-Pro/Amateur Football

Players in France who do not start in their Academy system are sometimes able to make their way through the semi-pro football leagues or at other noteworthy sporting events where coaches and scouts may see players.

  • The University of Lyon organizes a knockout competition of 48 university teams.
  • The Lille College organizes a knockout competition of 32 college teams that span a week. On the finals day, coaches may come to scout any talent they may find of interest 

Almost 15% of the French footballers have connected with their clubs via these semi-pro/amateur football competitions.


Football for women had been banned in France for several years, but was started up again in the mid 1970’s. 

As of 2021, there are four divisions of football for women in France.

The highest league for women’s football is called the Division 1 Feminine.  It is overseen by the Federation des Societes Feminines Sportives de France (FSFSF). 

The second tier of French women’s football is split into two separate groups.  The third tier is separated into four groups.

Below these are several regional leagues at the fourth level of women’s soccer in France.  These feed up into the third level.


Many French national players come through their  clubs. In the 2016/17 season, AS Monaco had a group of academy talents who won the Ligue 1 and reached the Champions League’s semi-finals.

Kylian Mbappe is one of the hottest national prospects in Ligue 1. Another french talent, Paul Pogba came through the ranks of an English club, Manchester United.

Neymar da Silva Santos Junior or Neymar as he is  known, is one of the biggest foreign talents in France. The Brazilian superstar enjoys his life at PSG, making the Ligue 1 champions reach their first-ever Champions League final. However, compared to other leagues, the rate of successful foreign players is less in France than in others.


AS Monaco, Olympique Lyon, and Paris Saint Germain are considered some of the best French academies.

They have amazing coaches and they groom the youth players right from the start, to help them achieve their potential

French Football has an exceptional pool of talent right now that is sure to dominate world football in the coming years.

Click here for a list of football academy in Europe for international students.